Monday, May 18, 2009

Disability Rights Wisconsin sues University of Wisconsin Hospital and clinic to change its policy on witholding treatment from patients with developmental disabilities

From the Wisconsin State Journal (h/t to Medical Futility and Wheelie Catholic):

Disability Rights Wisconisn has sued the UW Hospital and Clinic to change the hospital's policy for witholding treatment from patients with developmental disabilities. "Attorney Mitch Hagopian said he worried some UW Hospital doctors may be too quick to suggest withdrawing treatment from a developmentally disabled person they perceive to have a low quality of life." Here is an excerpt from the article:

In a case that could have broad legal implications for when some patients are allowed to die, an advocacy group is alleging that doctors at UW Hospital broke the law by withholding treatment from two developmentally disabled patients with apparent cases of pneumonia.

The guardian of one patient, who survived, at first went along with and then later disagreed with the decision to withhold care, the lawsuit by Disability Rights Wisconsin alleges. The parents of the other patient, who died, pushed for the withdrawal of treatment, according to the group’s complaint filed Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court.

One medical ethicist said the case could help to clarify a difficult question in state law: How much power do families and guardians have to make medical decisions for vulnerable patients such as children and the developmentally disabled?

Disability Rights contends state law prevents parents and guardians from withholding treatment from patients who can’t make that decision for themselves unless they are in a “persistent vegetative state,” a condition the group says did not apply to the two patients in the lawsuit.

The full story is here.