(1) The person's spouse;
(2) The person's adult children;
(3) The person's parents;
(4) The person's adult siblings;
(5) The person's adult grandchildren;
(6) The person's close friends;
(7) Any other person or entity, including, but not limited to, public agencies, public guardians, public officials, public and private corporations and other persons or entities which the department of health and human resources may from time to time designate in rules promulgated pursuant to chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.
(b) After inquiring about the existence and availability of a medical power of attorney representative or a guardian as required by subsection (a) of this section and determining that such persons either do not exist or are unavailable, incapable or unwilling to serve as a surrogate, the attending physician or an advanced nurse practitioner shall select and rely upon a surrogate in the order of priority set forth in subsection (a) of this section, subject to the following conditions:
(1) Where there are multiple possible surrogate decisionmakers at the same priority level, the attending physician or the advanced nurse practitioner shall, after reasonable inquiry, select as the surrogate the person who reasonably appears to be best qualified. The following criteria shall be considered in the determination of the person or entity best qualified to serve as the surrogate:
(A) Whether the proposed surrogate reasonably appears to be better able to make decisions either in accordance with the known wishes of the person or in accordance with the person's best interests;
(B) The proposed surrogate's regular contact with the person prior to and during the incapacitating illness;
(C) The proposed surrogate's demonstrated care and concern;
(D) The proposed surrogate's availability to visit the incapacitated person during his or her illness; and
(E) The proposed surrogate's availability to engage in face-to-face contact with health care providers for the purpose of fully participating in the decision-making process;
(2) The attending physician or the advanced nurse practitioner may select a proposed surrogate who is ranked lower in priority if, in his or her judgment, that individual is best qualified, as described in this section, to serve as the incapacitated person's surrogate. The attending physician or the advanced nurse practitioner shall document in the incapacitated person's medical records his or her reasons for selecting a surrogate in exception to the priority order provided in subsection (a) of this section.
(c) The surrogate is authorized to make health care decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person without a court order or judicial involvement.
(d) A health care provider or health care facility may rely upon the decisions of the selected surrogate if the provider believes, after reasonable inquiry, that:
(1) A guardian or representative under a valid, applicable medical power of attorney is unavailable, incapable or unwilling to serve;
(2) There is no other applicable advance directive;
(3) There is no reason to believe that such health care decisions are contrary to the incapacitated person's religious beliefs; and
(4) The attending physician or advanced nurse practitioner has not received actual notice of opposition to any health care decisions made pursuant to the provisions of this section.
(e) If a person who is ranked as a possible surrogate pursuant to subsection (a) of this section wishes to challenge the selection of a surrogate or the health care decision of the selected surrogate, he or she may seek injunctive relief or may file a petition for review of the selection of, or decision of, the selected surrogate with the circuit court of the county in which the incapacitated person resides or the supreme court of appeals. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the selection of the surrogate was valid and the person who is challenging the selection shall have the burden of proving the invalidity of that selection. The challenging party shall be responsible for all court costs and other costs related to the proceeding, except attorneys' fees, unless the court finds that the attending physician or advanced nurse practitioner acted in bad faith, in which case the person so acting shall be responsible for all costs. Each party shall be responsible for his or her own attorneys' fees.
(f) If the attending physician or advanced nurse practitioner is advised that a person who is ranked as a possible surrogate pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a) of this section has an objection to a health care decision to withhold or withdraw a life-prolonging intervention which has been made by the selected surrogate, the attending physician or advanced nurse practitioner shall document the objection in the medical records of the patient. Once notice of an objection or challenge is documented, the attending physician or advanced nurse practitioner shall notify the challenging party that the decision shall be implemented in seventy-two hours unless the attending physician receives a court order prohibiting or enjoining the implementation of the decision as provided in subsection (e) of this section. In the event that the incapacitated person has been determined to have undergone brain death and the selected surrogate has authorized organ or tissue donation, the decision shall be implemented in twenty-four hours unless the attending physician receives a court order prohibiting or enjoining the implementation of the decision as provided in said subsection.
(g) If the surrogate becomes unavailable for any reason, the surrogate may be replaced by applying the provisions of this section.
(h) If a person who ranks higher in priority relative to a selected surrogate becomes available and willing to be the surrogate, the person with higher priority may be substituted for the identified surrogate unless the attending physician determines that the lower-ranked person is best qualified to serve as the surrogate.
(i) The following persons may not serve as a surrogate: (1) A treating health care provider of the person who is incapacitated; (2) an employee of a treating health care provider not related to the person who is incapacitated; (3) an owner, operator or administrator of a health care facility serving the person who is incapacitated; or (4) any person who is an employee of an owner, operator or administrator of a health care facility serving the person who is incapacitated and who is not related to that person.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2015 Regular Session
The WV Code Online is an unofficial copy of the annotated WV Code, provided as a convenience. It has NOT been edited for publication, and is not in any way official or authoritative.