Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 54.1. Professions and Occupations
Chapter 29. Medicine and Other Healing Arts
11/14/2019

§ 54.1-2990. Medically unnecessary health care not required; procedure when physician refuses to comply with an advance directive or a designated person's health care decision; mercy killing or euthanasia prohibited.

A. As used in this section:

"Health care provider" has the same meaning as in § 8.01-581.1.

"Life-sustaining treatment" means any ongoing health care that utilizes mechanical or other artificial means to sustain, restore, or supplant a spontaneous vital function, including hydration, nutrition, maintenance medication, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

B. Nothing in this article shall be construed to require a physician to prescribe or render health care to a patient that the physician determines to be medically or ethically inappropriate. A determination of the medical or ethical inappropriateness of proposed health care shall be based solely on the patient's medical condition and not on the patient's age or other demographic status, disability, or diagnosis of persistent vegetative state.

In cases in which a physician's determination that proposed health care, including life-sustaining treatment, is medically or ethically inappropriate is contrary to the request of the patient, the terms of a patient's advance directive, the decision of an agent or person authorized to make decisions pursuant to § 54.1-2986, or a Durable Do Not Resuscitate Order, the physician or his designee shall document the physician's determination in the patient's medical record, make a reasonable effort to inform the patient or the patient's agent or person with decision-making authority pursuant to § 54.1-2986 of such determination and the reasons therefor in writing, and provide a copy of the hospital's written policies regarding review of decisions regarding the medical or ethical appropriateness of proposed health care established pursuant to subdivision B 21 of § 32.1-127.

If the conflict remains unresolved, the physician shall make a reasonable effort to transfer the patient to another physician or facility that is willing to comply with the request of the patient, the terms of the advance directive, the decision of an agent or person authorized to make decisions pursuant to § 54.1-2986, or a Durable Do Not Resuscitate Order and shall cooperate in transferring the patient to the physician or facility identified. The physician shall provide the patient or his agent or person with decision-making authority pursuant to § 54.1-2986 a reasonable time of not less than 14 days after the date on which the decision regarding the medical or ethical inappropriateness of the proposed treatment is documented in the patient's medical record in accordance with the hospital's written policy developed pursuant to subdivision B 21 of § 32.1-127 to effect such transfer. During this period, (i) the physician shall continue to provide any life-sustaining treatment to the patient that is reasonably available to such physician, as requested by the patient or his agent or person with decision-making authority pursuant to § 54.1-2986, and (ii) the hospital in which the patient is receiving life-sustaining treatment shall facilitate prompt access to the patient's medical record pursuant to § 32.1-127.1:03.

If, at the end of the 14-day period, the conflict remains unresolved despite compliance with the hospital's written policy established pursuant to subdivision B 21 of § 32.1-127 and the physician has been unable to identify another physician or facility willing to provide the care requested by the patient, the terms of the advance directive, or the decision of the agent or person authorized to make decisions pursuant to § 54.1-2986 to which to transfer the patient despite reasonable efforts, the physician may cease to provide the treatment that the physician has determined to be medically or ethically inappropriate subject to the right of court review by any party. However, artificial nutrition and hydration may be withdrawn or withheld only if, on the basis of physician's reasonable medical judgment, providing such artificial nutrition and hydration would (a) hasten the patient's death, (b) be medically ineffective in prolonging life, or (c) be contrary to the clearly documented wishes of the patient, the terms of the patient's advance directive, or the decision of an agent or person authorized to make decisions pursuant to § 54.1-2986 regarding the withholding of artificial nutrition or hydration. In all cases, care directed toward the patient's pain and comfort shall be provided.

C. Nothing in this section shall require the provision of health care that the physician is physically or legally unable to provide or health care that the physician is physically or legally unable to provide without thereby denying the same health care to another patient.

D. Nothing in this article shall be construed to condone, authorize, or approve mercy killing or euthanasia or to permit any affirmative or deliberate act or omission to end life other than to permit the natural process of dying.

E. Compliance with the requirements of this section shall not be admissible to prove a violation of or compliance with the standard of care as set forth in § 8.01-581.20.

1983, c. 532, § 54-325.8:10; 1988, c. 765; 1992, cc. 748, 772; 1999, c. 814; 2000, cc. 590, 598; 2009, cc. 211, 268; 2018, cc. 368, 565.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.