Friday, August 17, 2007

Preliminary Catholic Times news brief

Below you will find the preliminary version of my Catholic Times news brief on the "right to die" case. It may change, as there is a court hearing today to determine if "persistent vegetative state" testimony will be included in the hearing.

Court case brews as guardian seeks to end woman’s life-sustaining treatment at Gundersen
LA CROSSE, Wis. (Catholic Times) – La Crosse County chairwoman of Wisconsin Right to Life Joleen Stratman filed a circuit court motion Aug. 15 on behalf of an incapacitated La Crosse woman whose guardian has requested the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration.
La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Scott Horne was to have held an open hearing on the case Aug. 22. On Aug. 13, at the request of the La Crosse Tribune and WRTL, Judge Horne had denied the request of Robyn Shapiro, the attorney representing the woman’s guardian, to close the hearing to the public.
First publicized by the Tribune on July 15, the case highlights a 54-year-old woman whom WRTL says is named Marilyn. The woman has had seven strokes since 1995, the most recent having occurred on April 23. According to court documents filed by her guardian, she suffers from severe dementia, with symptoms of diabetes, anemia, pneumonia, respiratory failure and other medical conditions. Refusing to eat or drink, she is under sedation at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse, where she is fed via a feeding tube.
In July, Bernard Hammes, a medical ethicist and director of medical humanities for Gundersen, told the Tribune that the hospital’s Medical Ethics Committee agrees with the family’s decision to end her life-sustaining treatment.
In its attempt to save the woman’s life, WRTL attorneys Rick Esenberg and Terry Allen Davis wrote in their Aug. 15 motion that the fact the woman had left no advance directive “should be the end of the matter.”
“Under controlling law, it is not possible for Marilyn’s guardian or this court to order the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration,” they wrote, citing a 1997 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that held “a guardian may only direct the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment, including nutrition and hydration, if the incompetent ward is in a (persistent vegetative state) and the decision to withdraw is in the best interest of the ward.”
The woman’s guardian acknowledges that she neither left an advance directive, nor is she in a persistent vegetative state, as was Terri Schiavo.
However, Shapiro called the woman’s the medicated condition necessary to keep the woman alive “functionally equivalent” to a persistent vegetative state.
Although La Crosse Bishop Jerome E. Listecki has yet to issue a statement, he spoke out vigorously on behalf of Terry Schiavo in 2005.
“Most troubling is the fact that our courts, supported by some, did not make a presumption in favor of the dignity of life. This is yet another negative step against the culture of life in our society,” the bishop had written.

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