giovedì 14 giugno 2012

Court-Ordered Care — A Complication of Pregnancy to Avoid

But why should pregnancy diminish a competent adult woman's right to refuse care? Citizens have no legal duty to use their bodies to save one another; even parents have no such legal duty to their children. It follows, then, that “a fetus cannot have rights in this respect superior to those of a person who has already been born” (In re A.C.).

Moreover, the due-process considerations are profound. Because these cases are usually heard on an emergency basis, judicial decisions are made without full briefing on relevant law, medicine, and policy. Unlike alleged criminals, patients have no Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and they cannot instantaneously find expert witnesses to testify on their behalf. And hospital lawyers acting as state attorneys have a clear conflict of interest: as even the Supreme Court of Florida has noted, it is inappropriate for a hospital “to argue zealously against the wishes of its own patient,” and “it cannot act on behalf of the State to assert the state interests” when a competent adult refuses care (Matter of Dubreuil).
NEJM, june 14, 2012.

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