Tags: Parents' | 'Wrongful | Life' | Lawsuit | Against | Doctors | Fails

Parents' 'Wrongful Life' Lawsuit Against Doctors Fails

Wednesday, 29 May 2002 12:00 AM

The parents, Nancy Montalvo and Brian Vila, claimed doctors never told them the possible consequences of preserving the life of their premature son, Emanuel, born by Cesarean section after his mother went into labor and doctors were unable to stop it. He weighed less than 1.4 pounds at birth, did not breathe immediately and suffered from neurological disorders.

In their suit, the parents claimed the doctors were negligent for failing to sufficiently inform them "of the risk of disability to Emanuel following his premature birth. The parents said they should have been allowed to decide whether treatment should be withheld."

The appeals court found, however, "requiring the informed consent process here presumes that a right to decide not to resuscitate the newly born child or to withhold life-sustaining medical care actually existed. This premise is faulty.

"Thus, in Wisconsin, in the absence of a persistent vegetative state, the right of a parent to withhold life-sustaining treatment from a child does not exist. It is not disputed here that there was no evidence that Emanuel was in 'a persistent vegetative state.' Accordingly, the alternative of withholding life-sustaining treatment did not exist."

In their suit, the parents did not claim Emanuel was born with a disability or that they would have chosen to withhold treatment. Instead, they claimed doctors did not give them statistics on the possibilities of developing disabilities if the child lived.

"Although Montalvo concedes that as parents they have 'no right to terminate the child's life,' they assert that if 'there is a balance between giving therapies that help, but which may also seriously harm, the parents should be the final arbiters of choice,'" the court wrote. "In the exigent circumstances confronting the treating physician here, no 'balance' existed as proposed by the parents. Failure to treat was tantamount to a death sentence. Under the pleaded circumstances, informed consent was not required."

The court noted Wisconsin law presumes that life is "in the best interests of a patient" under most circumstances.

"If the parents' claim is allowed to proceed, courts will be required to decide which potential imperfections or disabilities are, as characterized in appellant's brief, 'worse than death.' They will have to determine which disability entitles a child to live and which disability allows a third-party surrogate to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment with the intent to allow a disabled person to die. ... Such a process, not unreasonably, has kaleidoscopic, unending implications," the court said.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The parents, Nancy Montalvo and Brian Vila, claimed doctors never told them the possible consequences of preserving the life of their premature son, Emanuel, born by Cesarean section after his mother went into labor and doctors were unable to stop it. He weighed less than...
Parents','Wrongful,Life',Lawsuit,Against,Doctors,Fails
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2002-00-29
Wednesday, 29 May 2002 12:00 AM
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