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ETH-041: Medical Care for the Wards of the State

Medical Care for the Wards of the State: The Wisconsin Medical Society strongly disagrees with the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s holding in Edna M.F. that, for patients who lack decision-making capacity, if a patient is not in a persistent vegetative state, it is not in the best interests of the patient to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, and instead believes that there are circumstances in which decreasing, withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment for a patient who is suffering from a terminal condition can be in the best interests of the patient based on factors specific to that patient. Patients who lack capacity to make health care decisions may still be capable of manifesting assent or protest to a specific treatment option, and such expressions should be given great weight by physicians and a patient’s legal representative in determining what is in the best interests of the patient, and may, in certain situations, be sufficient to supersede the decision of the patient’s legal representative.

The Society believes physicians should not be subject to civil or criminal liability for acting in the best interests of a terminally ill patient as determined in collaboration with the patient’s legal representative, even when doing so results in the decreasing, withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment.

The Society will advocate for changes to Wisconsin law in accordance with this policy; however, nothing in this policy supersedes a physician’s duties under current law. (HOD, 0416)