Ashley Crispin Ackal is a trial lawyer working in Estate, Trust litigation, and Commercial Law. She is a partner at O’Connell Crispin Ackal of West Palm Beach in Florida. We took an interest in family disputes involving end-of-life decisions when medical professionals violate the wishes of an infirm patient, the family, or a diseased person. Our interest in this topic evolved out of a number of stories that have been in the news lately regarding hospitals denying families the right to visit their loved ones due to COVID-19 inspired restrictions. We asked Ashley Crispin Ackal what she could tell us about this topic. This is what we learned.
Conflicts Over End-of-Life Care
It’s an issue that every family with an aging parent or terminal, ailing loved one faces: end of life care and potential conflicts with healthcare providers. Disagreements between family members are common. But, as Ashley Crispin Ackal explains, when the wishes of the family and of the individual in care her or himself come into conflict with the efforts of care providers to adhere to policy, often the family needs expert legal representation to have a chance at having their rights, wishes and needs to be respected.
In most cases, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals put a great deal of effort into avoiding moral and ethical problems and conflicts in end-of-life cases, as Ashley Crispin Ackal explains. We discussed three ways hospitals and care staff are encouraged to avoid such conflicts.
Ways Medical Professionals Can Avoid End of Life Care Conflict
First and foremost, care providers are encouraged to use and ask for clear communication between family members, those involved with the patient, and medical staff and doctors. The family’s expectations should be made clear as early as possible. Most importantly, hospital staff should request additional information as needed and do so in a proactive manner.
The second is to clarify who will serve as an objective surrogate for the patient or to appoint one after consulting with the family.
The third is to involve legal representatives or other third parties as necessary. In 1992, the largest hospital accreditation organization in the U.S. required hospitals to set up procedures for the consideration of ethical issues. Hospital ethics committees have become the standard response to this requirement.
When Medical Organizations Fail to Adhere to Best End of Life Practices
In her work with O’Connell & Crispin Ackal PLLC, Ashley Crispin Ackal has protected the rights and wishes of numerous families when hospitals failed in their duty to respect reasonable wishes. Ashley Crispin Ackal told us, “Most of the time, medical staff and doctors do a good job of respecting people’s rights and wishes. But sometimes they don’t, and if these families are not properly represented, they may have no chance of receiving fair or respectful treatment.”
She went on to say that it has been a pleasure to protect the interests of those who needed someone to go to bat for them.