The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear a drunken driver's claim that he was not responsible for the death of a 93-year-old woman killed in a 2010 crash because her "do-not-resuscitate" order kept her from potentially life-saving medical care.
Eddie Cortez Smith, 34, was convicted by a Ramsey County District
Court jury in June 2011 of criminal vehicular homicide in the death of
Edith Schouveller of St. Paul on March 28, 2010. He was sentenced to 10
years in prison, the maximum term allowed by state law. His conviction was affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in
The case turns on the argument that Schouveller's advance directive with the do-not-resuscitate order was a "superseding event." When she developed pneumonia, doctors determined she needed a small tube inserted into her lungs to
aid her breathing. But court documents show she only wanted antibiotics,
and no breathing tube if it did not restore her to her preferred
quality of life. She died 13 days after the crash. At trial, one of her doctors said
Shouveller might have lived with a breathing tube. (Star Tribune)
Things do not look good for Smith. Criminal defendants regularly make this causation argument. And they regularly lose.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Minnesota v. Smith: Does Advance Directive Break Chain of Causation?
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.