Thursday, November 29, 2012

Minnesota v. Smith: Does Advance Directive Break Chain of Causation?

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 September.

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.

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