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In re AC
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
533 A.2d 611 (1987)
AC (defendant) had completed treatment for leukemia and was in remission when she became pregnant. When AC was 25 weeks pregnant, her physicians found a cancerous tumor in her lung and AC was given a terminal prognosis. AC was then admitted into the George Washington University Hospital (hospital) (plaintiff) the following week. Physicians discussed with AC and her family the option for AC to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy so that her pregnancy could continue until she reached 28 weeks, at which point the child’s chance of viability would be increased. AC informed the physicians that if her gestational period reached the 28-week mark, the physicians should do everything possible to save the fetus, even at the expense of AC’s life. However, there was no discussion regarding whether AC consented to the physicians taking all possible measures to save the fetus before the 28-week mark. When AC’s pregnancy reached 26 weeks, AC had to be heavily sedated to breathe and the fetus was suffering oxygen deprivation. The hospital filed a petition in superior court, seeking a declaratory order from the court as to whether the hospital could perform a cesarean section to save the life of the fetus without AC’s direct consent. The court held a hearing, during which multiple physicians testified. Some physicians believed that AC would not have wanted to deliver the baby before 28 weeks because the baby was at an increased risk for certain handicaps, but other physicians believed AC would have consented to the cesarean section. The court then authorized the procedure on the ground that the fetus was viable and therefore the state had an interest in protecting the potential life. However, shortly after the decision, AC had a period of lucidity, during which she consented to the cesarean section after being told her chance of survival was low but then changed her mind shortly after and withdrew consent. The matter was then appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Nebeker, J.)
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