Monday, September 1, 2008
Dorothy Livadas -- Life Support Removed Over Proxy's Objections
On Friday afternoon, Strong Memorial Hospital removed Dorothy Livadas' life support not only without the consent of Dorothy's duly appointed health care agent but also over the agent's vociferous objections. The agent, Dorothy's daughter Ianthe, had been replaced with Catholic Family Center. As the new substitute decision maker, CFC authorized the removal of life support. Yesterday, on a plane from Albuquerque, I read a long post (14 single-spaced pages) that Ianthe had placed in the comments field of this blog. I agree that there is a significant likelihood that the living will did not reflect Dorothy's wishes. There is a significant probability that many living wills fails to reflect the wishes of their makers. But they are presumed to constitute "clear and convincing evidence." Ianthe's evidence about the rushed making of the living will was just not sufficient to overcome the presumption. Like Schiavo, the case did not address end-of-life decision making principles. It was just a dispute about the condition of the patient and the evidence of the patient's wishes. On the other hand, it does indicate a clear trend of courts replacing surrogates who act contrary to either the wishes or best interests of the patient.
Thaddeus Mason Pope is Director of the Health Law Institute and Professor of Law and at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota. <> <> He is also an Adjunct Professor with the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Technology; Adjunct Associate Professor with the Alden March Bioethics Institute at Albany Medical College; and Visiting Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at St. Georges University. <> <> Professor Pope is an internationally recognized expert in bioethics and medical ethics. He has over 120 publications in: leading medical journals, law reviews, bar journals, nursing journals, bioethics journals, and book chapters. He also coauthors the definitive 1500-page treatise The Right to Die: The Law of End-of-Life Decisionmaking.