On August 17, 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a guardian for a mentally disabled person is not permitted to refuse life-saving medical treatment when the disabled person is not suffering from an end-stage medical condition or is not permanently unconscious. Here is a link to the opinion. http://oldsite.alliancedefensefund.org/userdocs/HockenberryOpinion.pdf
The Court found that Pennsylvania statutes prohibited the guardian from refusing such care. The Court acknowledged that there are many similar cases when state law would allow for such refusals. But in the situation presented to the Court (when the person is not competent to make medical decisions and has not appointed a health care agent), the Court found that the guardian is not permitted to authorize life-saving treatment . Here is a link to the Lifenews.com story, http://www.lifenews.com/state5395.html, and to the Alliance Defense Fund story.http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/News/Detail?ContentID=18406 The Alliance Defense Fund filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of the disabled man.
The case is a welcome development, but it is important to note that the case is limited to the precise situation presented under the relevant Pennsylvania statutes. The Pennsylvania courts have, in other cases, ruled that guardians may withdraw treatment (which the courts consider to include artificial nutrition and hydration) when the patient is in a persistent vegetative state. The problem presented in Terri Schiavo-like situations still exists in Pennsylvania. For commentary on the Terri Schiavo case, see http://www.uffl.org/Vol14/myers-04.pdf