A Directive to Physicians is a type of Advance Directive that allows an individual to tell her doctors what kind of medical care they should provide if she is injured and unable to communicate. Because physicians will generally provide life sustaining care (life-support) as a default, a Directive will usually instruct physicians to withhold life-support, or to stop providing it after a certain period of time has elapsed. A Directive of this nature, that orders physicians to withhold or withdraw life-support, will almost always be respected by the treating doctors. However, under Texas law, a Directive to withhold or withdraw life-support will have no effect if the patient is pregnant. (Texas Health and Safety Code § 166.049).
If a pregnant individual needs life-sustaining treatment, but cannot communicate her wishes at the time of treatment, physicians have to administer the medical care needed to survive. Any Advanced Directive that a pregnant patient may have executed to avoid such medical care, including a Directive to Physicians, will have no effect and the physicians cannot follow the Directive. The Texas model for Directives to Physicians explicitly includes an acknowledgment to this effect: “I understand that under Texas law this directive has no effect if I have been diagnosed as pregnant.” (Texas Health and Safety Code § 166.033).
If you are considering a Directive to Physicians or any other Advance Directive and would like to learn more about your options, please contact Kirker|Davis today.