Friday, August 17, 2007

More on the 'right to die' case

From today's La Crosse Tribune:

Right-to-die case in court: An explainer
By Tribune staff

La Crosse County - Circuit Judge Scott Horne will hear arguments today in the case of a guardian seeking the court’s permission to withdraw a La Crosse woman’s life-sustaining treatment. Today’s hearing is on whether he should exclude medical testimony about persistent vegetative state, and perhaps consider Wisconsin Right to Life’s request to dismiss the case.

THE CASE: A woman in her 50s is being kept alive at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center by continuous sedation and a feeding tube. She has had seven strokes since 1995, the most recent caused a violent dementia. She refuses to eat or drink, and tore out feeding tubes in the past, so she must be sedated to continue feeding her, her doctors said. The woman’s family wants Gundersen Lutheran to cease life-sustaining treatment.

THE LAW: A guardian has no authority in Wisconsin to make that kind of treatment - or lack of treatment - decision unless the patient is in a persistent vegetative state or has expressed wishes through a conversation or advance directive.

AGREED FACTS: The woman is not in a persistent vegetative state and doesn’t have an advance directive.

GUARDIAN’S ARGUMENT: Robyn Shapiro, a Milwaukee attorney representing the guardian, said the woman’s medicated condition is “functionally equivalent” to persistent vegetative state. When the woman was competent, her actions showed she placed a high value on her personal dignity, Shapiro said. A amended petition filed in court says the woman once had commented she didn’t want to live like Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman who became the focus of a national right-to-die battle. She died in March 2005 two weeks after her feeding tube was removed.

THE OTHER SIDE: Dan Watson, appointed adversarial attorney to represent the opposing side, and Fabio Burgess, who represents the woman’s interests, said ending life-sustaining treatment is not an option under Wisconsin law because the woman is not in a persistent vegetative state and never clearly expressed her wishes. The Wisconsin Right to Life asked Wednesday to intervene in the case and argue the woman should continue to be treated.

No comments: