Saturday, August 18, 2007

And it's over, just like that

Case dismissed! It seems that the heat was too much for those involved in La Crosse's impending "right to die" case. According to the article below from today's Tribune, a surprise move terminate's the guardian's request that the woman involved die.

In one way, I know this is a moment for rejoicing, given that the woman's life is no longer in danger. In another way, though, I would very much have liked the law to have been strengthened and vindicated by the court case. The guardian's case, that the woman was "functionally" vegetative, was simply outrageous. I would guess his attorneys finally convinced him of that fact.

In any case, I guess I'll have to modify my news article for the Catholic Times when I get to work on Monday!

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Guardian withdraws right-to-die request

By TERRY RINDFLEISCH / La Crosse Tribune

The court case involving a guardian seeking to withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a La Crosse woman is over for now.

In a surprise move Friday in La Crosse County Circuit Court, attorneys for the guardian withdrew a request to stop life-sustaining treatment. They asked La Crosse County Circuit Judge Scott Horne to dismiss the case without prejudice, leaving the door open to refile the case at a future date.

Charles Barr, a Milwaukee attorney for the guardian, told the judge he had received a medical opinion about the woman recently “that convinced us not to proceed at this time.”

In a hearing earlier this week, Robyn Shapiro, another attorney for the guardian, said she would present medical testimony that the woman’s condition was “functionally equivalent” to a persistent vegetative state.

Horne was caught off guard and ready to hear arguments about

whether he should exclude medical testimony about persistent vegetative state and perhaps rule on Wisconsin Right to Life’s request to intervene in the case.

The merits of the case were scheduled to be argued in a two-day hearing next week.

Barr said Friday the woman’s medical condition has not changed, and the request for dismissal had more to do with medical opinion. The woman, in her 50s, is being kept alive at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center by continuous sedation and a feeding tube. The only way to keep feeding her, her doctors say, is to keep her sedated.

In Wisconsin, a guardian has no authority to withdraw life-sustaining treatment unless the patient is in a persistent vegetative state or has expressed wishes through a conversation or advance directive. Attorneys for the woman said she is not in a persistent vegetative state and doesn’t have an advance directive.

Also on Friday, Horne closed the court record in the case pending a hearing Tuesday in which an attorney for the La Crosse Tribune will ask for portions of the record earlier declared open by Horne to remain open.

Dan Watson, the adversarial attorney appointed by Horne to oppose withdrawl of life support, had asked the judge to reconsider his ruling to allow limited access to court records and hearings in the case. Watson said in court documents filed Friday that the publicity over the opposing interests of Wisconsin Right to Life and Gundersen Lutheran’s Ethics Committee will “ultimately compromise any measures taken” to protect the woman’s identity.

Fabio Burgos, an attorney appointed to represent the woman’s interests, also filed a request to close the hearing to the public during any testimony about the woman’s psychological state and the circumstances concerning her hospital admission and her agitation and anguish.

Burgos also asked the judge to exclude the electronic media from future hearings.

Horne asked James Birnbaum, the Tribune’s attorney, to present arguments about what would be the public interest to open the court record now that the case has been dismissed.

1 comment:

Cassandra said...

I wouldn't be too overjoyed too quickly. You have no idea what might be Plan B.

Additionally, this allows the Gundersen Lutheran "Ethics" Committee to escape srutiny.