HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Creighton University School of Law

Thursday, February 24, 2005

New Futility Dispute at Mass. General

Some years ago, it was the Gilgunn case (unreported, but still famous).  Now Massachusetts General Hospital is back in court in another futility dispute.  According to an article in the Boston Globe (for which, many thanks to reader Jay Cortellini), Barbara Howe has ALS and has been an in-patient at MGH for five years.  At least since 2003, the hospital has wanted to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from Ms. Howe:

[D]octors have said that Howe is ''locked in" her own body, and in June 2003, the head of the hospital's end-of-life committee, Dr. Edwin Cassem, a Jesuit priest and psychiatrist, wrote that ''the patient's status has surpassed an acceptable limit endangering her integrity, dignity, humanity, and basic human rights."

The hospital says the patient has recently taken a turn for the worse, and that ventilator support "is inappropriate and harmful, indeed inhumane." Everyone is back in court to find out who has the authority to decide whether Ms. Howe continues to live on the vent.  [tm]

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