Chapter 5.C: Futility


Sonya Causey was a former employee of St. Francis Medical Center who suffered complications during childbirth that left her quadriplegic.

A recent California case employed similar reasoning. Elizabeth Alexander suffered from end-stage pancreatic cancer. Although she had requested all measures to prolong life in her advance directive, and her POLST form reflected her wishes, doctors wrote a DNR order for her on grounds of futility, and efforts were not made to resuscitate her when her heart stopped beating. The court of appeals rejected liability, citing the statutory provision that

A health care provider or health care institution may decline to comply with an individual health care instruction or health care decision that requires medically ineffective health care or health care contrary to generally accepted health care standards applicable to the health care provider or institution. [Cal. Prob. Code § 4735]

Alexander v. Scripps Memorial Hospital, 232 Cal.Rptr.3d 733 (Ct. App. 2018).