Georgia Medical Consent Law (O.C.G.A. § 31-9-1 et seq.)

Georgia has a default health-care decision making statute at O.C.G.A. § 31-9-1 et seq. In the absence of an advance directive, and when a patient is unable to make his or her own decisions, it authorizes a close relative or group of relatives to make most health care decisions. It is not a substitute for an advance directive and has drawbacks. Among its drawbacks, the decision-maker under default statute might not be the person who shares your values. Another drawback is that it appoints groups (e.g., your adult children) and groups don’t always reach consensus. Think about it, … most committees work together about as well as my dogs shown below.

Still, if you’re in the hospital and decisions need to be made, the default statute is better than nothing. Decisions can’t be made unless someone has authority to act. Only someone with authority to act can consent to treatment, or refuse treatment. If the patient cannot make decisions for himself or herself, Georgia law gives default authority to certain classes of individuals. Those individuals may or may not share your values, and they may or may not get along, so reliance on this statute is not recommended.

Georgia’s default medical and surgical consent statute provides that, in addition to other persons authorized by law, the following persons are authorized and empowered to consent, either orally or otherwise, to any surgical or medical treatment or procedures not prohibited by law which may be suggested, recommended, prescribed, or directed by a duly licensed physician:

(1) Any adult, for himself or herself, whether by living will, advance directive for health care, or otherwise;
(1.1) Any person authorized to give such consent for the adult under an advance directive for health care or durable power of attorney for health care under Chapter 32 of this title;
(2) In the absence or unavailability of a person authorized pursuant to paragraph (1.1) of this subsection, any married person for his or her spouse;
(3) In the absence or unavailability of a living spouse, any parent, whether an adult or a minor, for his or her minor child;
(4) Any person temporarily standing in loco parentis, whether formally serving or not, for the minor under his or her care; and any guardian, for his or her ward;
(5) Any female, regardless of age or marital status, for herself w hen given in connection with pregnancy, or the prevention thereof, or childbirth;
(6) Upon the inability of any adult to consent for himself or herself and in the absence of any person to consent under paragraphs (1.1) through (5) of this subsection, the following persons in the following order of priority:

(A) Any adult child for his or her parents;
(B) Any parent for his or her adult child;
(C) Any adult for his or her brother or sister;
(D) Any grandparent for his or her grandchild;
(E) Any adult grandchild for his or her grandparent; or
(F) Any adult niece, nephew, aunt, or uncle of the patient who is related to
the patient in the first degree; or

(7) Upon the inability of any adult to consent for himself or herself and in the absence of any person to consent under paragraphs (1.1) through (6) of this subsection, an adult friend of the patient.

Persons acting under this statute must act in good faith to consent to procedures the patient would have authorized. If a physician determines that an individual is unable to make health care decisions for himself or herself, that determination must be noted in the medical record after an examination. The note should indicate that the adult “lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make significant responsible decisions” regarding his or her medical treatment or the ability to communicate by any means such decisions.

The above does not alter a person’s right to refuse treatment if the patient is 18 years of age or older. O.C.G.A. § 31-9-7.

An individual making decisions under this statute must have the necessary information to make informed decisions so, at least for the decision at-hand, he or she has authority to access related health care information covered by HIPAA.

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