Pennsylvania court decision on medical care for the disabled

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.

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 story,, and to the Alliance Defense Fund story. 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      

Richard M.

Richard Myers

Richard S. Myers, the Vice-President of UFL, is Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law, where he teaches Antitrust, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, and Religious Freedom. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Kenyon College and earned his law degree at Notre Dame, where he won the law school's highest academic prize. He began his legal career by clerking for Judge John F. Kilkenny of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Professor Myers also worked for Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Washington, D.C. He taught at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law before joining the Ave Maria faculty. He is a co-editor of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Tradition: Contemporary Perspectives (Catholic University of American Press, 2004) and a co-editor of Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy (Scarecrow Press, 2007). He has also published extensively on constitutional law in law reviews and also testified before Congressional and state legislative hearings on life issues. Married to Mollie Murphy, who is also on the faculty at Ave Maria School of Law, they are the proud parents of six children - Michael, Patrick, Clare, Kathleen, Matthew, and Andrew.