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In re Phillip B.

California Court of Appeal
156 Cal. Rptr. 48 (Ct. App. 1979)


Twelve-year-old Phillip B. was born with Down’s Syndrome and a congenital heart defect. His parents (defendants) placed him a residential care facility. In 1973, a physician recommended that Phillip receive a cardiac catheterization to determine the severity of his heart problem. His parents initially refused but eventually agreed to catheterization in 1977. The procedure showed an extensive problem, and Phillip’s physician recommended surgery, without which Phillip would suffer an early death after a progressive decline. A second cardiologist confirmed that without the surgery, Phillip would live to age 20 at most. With it, his life expectancy would be substantially increased. The surgery bore genuine risks, however, due to Phillip’s Down’s Syndrome and the exacerbation of his heart condition during years of no treatment. There was a five-to-10 percent chance of death from the surgery and a higher risk of post-operative problems. Phillip’s parents refused to authorize surgery. A petition was brought, pursuant to a California statute, asking that Phillip be made a dependent of the court for the limited purpose of ensuring that he receive surgery. The court denied the petition, and an appeal was taken.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Caldecott, J.)

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