“Little Mirranda Lawson, who is lying in a hospital bed and perhaps legally dead, is forcing society to rethink some basic issues in bioethics. Her parents reject the physicians’ desire to do apnea testing–part of the standard tests for declaring someone dead based on brain criteria (brain death). They are relying on the near-sacred bioethical maxim that patients and surrogates have the moral right to refuse to consent to medical interventions unless there is a clear interest of an incompetent patient at stake or public health reasons to treat. Parents and other surrogates are now in at least six legal cases trying to block testing either because they believe the testing (which requires shutting off the ventilator) will harm their loved ones or because they reject brain-based death pronouncement. Courts in Virginia, Ohio, California, and Nevada are currently struggling with the issue.” —RV
Part of a new series of reading recommendations from the scholars, staff, and supporters of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics.