Legal Hierarchy of Medical Decision-Making

Every state has laws that govern who can make medical decisions for a patient in the event he becomes unable to make medical decisions for himself.  The following is the legal order of who a patient’s healthcare team will work with to discuss your healthcare needs:

  1. Someone whom the patient has previously designated in writing as the medical decision maker (either by declaration before 2 witnesses or through a written healthcare power of attorney).
  2. A judicially appointed curator or tutor
  3. The patient's spouse, not judicially separated
  4. Adult children of the patient
  5. The parents of the patient
  6. The patient's sibling
  7. The patient's other relatives

Source: Koppel, A., JD, Sullivan, S., JD.  Legal Considerations in End of Life Decision-Making in Louisiana.  The Ochsner Journal, v.11(4); Winter, 2011.