It is important to know that there are some situations where a doctor and/or private health care facilities can refuse to honor a health care agent’s request for treatment. The most important thing to understand here is that a health care agent in Massachusetts has no more authority than the actual patient.
Health care providers can refuse to honor an agent’s health care decision if the facility would not honor the decision even if the patient made it. For example, if the proposed treatment would be contrary to a formally adopted policy of the facility that can be expressly based on religious beliefs, and the facility would be permitted by law to refuse to honor the decision if made by the principal. In addition, a facility can never be compelled to do something that is illegal or against public policy, and doctors cannot be compelled to perform a medical procedure that is contrary to their moral or religious views. .
The facility must inform the patient or health care agent of such policy prior to or upon admission, if it is reasonably possible. Then the patient must be transferred to another equivalent facility that is reasonably accessible to the patient’s family and willing to honor the agent’s decision. If the facility or the agent is unable to arrange such a transfer, the facility shall seek judicial guidance.