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In re A.C.

District of Columbia Court of Appeals
573 A.2d 1235 (1990)


Facts

A.C. (defendant) was diagnosed with cancer resulting in several surgical procedures and chemotherapy treatments. She became pregnant during a period of remission. Because she was deemed a high-risk pregnancy, she was sent to the clinic at George Washington University Hospital (GWUH) (plaintiff) for periodic check-ups and appointments. An x-ray revealed an inoperable tumor in her right lung. When asked by the doctors at GWUH if she really wanted to have her baby, she replied that she did. Shortly thereafter, A.C.’s condition worsened significantly. The doctors at the GWUH and her family informed A.C. that her condition was terminal and she agreed to extend treatment to 28-weeks to extend her life and have a chance for a better outcome for the fetus. When asked if she still wanted to have the baby, she was less sure but still preferred to have the baby. The GWUH petitioned an emergency judge in chambers for declaratory relief as to how it should treat A.C. Counsel was appointed for A.C. and the fetus. The District of Columbia intervened for the fetus as parens patriae. A hearing held at the GWUH concluded that A.C. would likely die within 24 to 48 hours, that she had a 50 to 60 percent chance of survival if the fetus was delivered via caesarean section, that the state had a legitimate interest in protecting human life, and that the procedure may hasten the death of A.C., but waiting may harm the fetus. There was no evidence showing what exactly A.C. would have wanted. Using a balancing test, the trial court ordered the caesarean section procedure to be performed. Physicians informed A.C. of the decision and she stated she did not want it performed. However, physicians testified that she may not have been mentally or emotionally in a position to provide true informed consent. The procedure was performed and a baby girl, L.M.C., was delivered. The baby died a few hours later and A.C. died two days later. A representative for A.C. appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Terry, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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Concurrence/Dissent (Belson, J.)

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