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Appellate Court Dismissal on Suit regarding Life-Prolonging Care


On August 20, 2023, an Indiana Appellate Court dismissed a suit regarding allegedly negligent life-prolonging care rendered to a nonagenarian patient, who could not herself consent. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the patient’s living will had a conditional “do not resuscitate” (“DNR”) provision which established “medical battery” for the care provided, and further argued the invalidity of a unanimous family vote regarding care. Because the patient was unable to consent to medical care, and had not appointed a health care representative, all her children and grandchildren had decision making authority on her care.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and Judge Kenworthy with the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed. The trial court found that the DNR declaration in the living will was conditional, citing incurable disease or injury with death occurring in a short time as the time to withhold life-prolonging care. Furthermore, Ms. Gillette’s son, Stephen, directed the hospital to provide a feeding tube, even though his other siblings disagreed. Previous refusal of care was diminished by Stephen’s consent. The court said that because the providers in this case did not render the life-prolonging care in the face of a “valid refusal,” there was no liability for medical battery.

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