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In re Guardianship of Hailu

Supreme Court of Nevada
361 P.3d 524 (2015)


Facts

Aden Hailu went to St. Mary’s Regional Hospital (St. Mary’s) (defendant) after experiencing abdominal pain. Hailu underwent surgery to have her appendix removed. During surgery, Hailu suffered severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen. Hailu never woke up from her surgery. Several tests were performed on Hailu showing brain functioning. St. Mary’s director of neurology concluded that Hailu was not brain dead but was rapidly declining. St. Mary’s briefly removed Hailu from ventilation to see if she could breathe on her own, but she was unable to. Hailu stopped showing signs of neurological functioning. St. Mary’s concluded that Hailu was brain dead. The hospital informed Hailu’s father, Fanuel Gebreyes (plaintiff), that it intended to remove Hailu from life support. Gebreyes filed a motion to enjoin St. Mary’s from removing Hailu’s life support. Gebreyes alleged that the doctors at St. Mary’s had prematurely determined that Hailu had experienced brain death. Gebreyes wanted Hailu to receive a feeding tube and to be relocated closer to Gebreyes’ home. St. Mary’s testified that it had applied the American Association of Neurology (AAN) guidelines to determine that Hailu was brain dead. St. Mary’s said that the AAN guidelines were the accepted medical standard in the state. Gebreyes’ expert witness testified that although Hailu’s chances of survival were extremely low, he couldn’t say with certainty that her chances were zero. Gebreyes’ witness also testified that under AAN guidelines Hailu’s conditioned appeared irreversible and she met the conditions for brain death. However, the witness also testified that other factors—such as Hailu’s young age and the fact that the general functioning of the rest of her body was good—indicated that Hailu might be able to improve. The trial court held that an injunction should not be ordered because the evidence showed that St. Mary’s followed the AAN guidelines. The case was brought before the state supreme court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Pickering, J.)

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