Krysta Rae Tate

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Death is an eternal theme within all cultures; the Grim Reaper coming to collect a person's soul, death riding in on a pale horse, mythical characters like Hades and Thanatos. A seemingly inescapable proposition emerged over time: the nature of death is unpredictable and unavoidable. Eventually, due to changes in technology, the world's perspective on the nature of death shifted. Advancements in medical technology introduced a plethora of life-sustaining procedures, and death was no longer completely beyond a human's control.

A breakthrough in the medical means used to control the dynamic nature of death occurred when the Georgia General Assembly enacted the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care Act (the Act) in 2007. The Act created a single form, the advance directive, and resolved the inconsistencies between the living will and the durable power of attorney for health care. The resolutions contained in the advance directive served two goals: to clarify the role of the medical providers and to give greater power to patients to have the ultimate decision making power in their medical treatment.

Along with these two goals, the Act also intended to provide a straightforward mechanism to transfer the decision making power of the patient to a health care agent, while ensuring the power would still have the full effect as if the patient were still the one making decisions. As one of the first cases in Georgia to consider the reach of the Act, Doctors Hospital of Augusta v. Alicea defined what is required of a health care provider who fails, or is unwilling, to comply with a health care agent's directions to qualify for immunity from civil liability under the Act's good faith reliance standard.