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Betancourt v. Trinitas Hospital

New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division
1 A.3d 823 (2010)


Reuben Betancourt, a 73-year-old man, underwent surgery at Trinitas Hospital (Trinitas) (defendant) to remove a malignant tumor from his thymus gland. Although the surgery was successful, Betancourt’s ventilator tube became dislodged while he was recovering resulting in significant brain injury due to the prolonged oxygen deprivation. Consequently, Betancourt lapsed into a persistent vegetative state. Betancourt was completely unresponsive and being kept alive by a ventilator and other medical equipment. Repeated attempts at rehabilitating Betancourt failed. Trinitas physicians sought to obtain permission from Betancourt’s family (plaintiff) to place a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) in Betancourt’s medical chart which would remove the life-sustaining treatment. The family refused. Thereafter, Trinitas acted unilaterally and placed the DNR order in Betancourt’s chart. The family filed suit against Trinitas to prevent the hospital from removing the life-sustaining treatment. After a trial, the court ordered Trinitas to re-establish the level of treatment that have been provided to Betancourt prior to the discontinuation of the life-sustaining treatment and appointed Betancourt’s daughter as surrogate to make medical decisions on behalf of Betancourt. Trinitas appealed. During the pendency of Trinitas’ appeal, Betancourt died. The family filed a motion to dismiss the suit as moot.

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