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In re Storar

420 N.E.2d 64 (1981)

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In re Storar

New York Court of Appeals

420 N.E.2d 64 (1981)

Facts

Fifty-two-year-old John Storar had the intellect of an 18-month-old child and had lived in a state facility for most of his life. Storar was diagnosed with bladder cancer after physicians at the facility noticed blood in his urine. The recommended treatment was radiation therapy at a nearby hospital. Storar's mother (defendant) was her son’s court-appointed guardian, and she consented to the radiation therapy, which was given for six weeks. Although the cancer was in remission for a short period, physicians thereafter again observed blood in Storar’s urine. After an examination they concluded that his cancer was terminal. Physicians then asked Mrs. Storar to consent to blood transfusions to be performed on her son. She initially consented, but she later asked that they be discontinued, knowing that stopping the transfusions would likely lead to Storar’s quick death. The director of the facility (plaintiff) brought an action under the state’s Mental Hygiene Law asking that the transfusions continue. Mrs. Storar cross-petitioned for an order to halt all procedures and named the District Attorney as a party. The court appointed a guardian ad litem for Storar and issued a temporary order allowing the transfusions to continue pending the outcome of a hearing on the matter. At the hearing, all the experts agreed that Storar was losing blood and had a very short time to live. They additionally agreed that he was unable to comprehend his situation and make an informed and rational choice regarding his care. However, it was very clear that Storar did not like the transfusion procedures, regardless of the fact that they did not involve excessive pain. The trial court and the appellate court both denied the facility’s petition to continue treatment. In a separate case, Joseph Fox, a member of the Roman Catholic clergy, lapsed into a vegetative state after suffering a heart attack. Fox's attending physician informed Father Philip Eichner (plaintiff) that there was no reasonable chance of Fox recovering. After two neurosurgeons confirmed Fox’s diagnosis, Eichner requested that the hospital remove the respirator, but the hospital refused without a court order. It was well known that Fox would not have wanted to be on a respirator in his state. He had formally discussed his personal views during talks about the moral implications of removing the ventilator in the famous Karen Quinlan case. At that time, Fox agreed that he would not want any extraordinary measures taken if he were in a persistent vegetative state with no chance of recovery. Eichner petitioned to be Fox's guardian, which was supported by all of Fox’s living relatives. At a hearing, the District Attorney opposed Eichner’s application to remove the respirator, suggesting that there may be a chance for some improvement in Fox’s condition. However, all medical experts agreed that there was no reasonable likelihood that Fox would ever emerge from a vegetative coma. The trial court and the appellate court held that Fox's wishes should be honored, but the appellate court included a lengthy discussion of the necessary procedures that hospitals and courts should follow in future similar cases. The New York Court of Appeals considered both cases.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wachtler, J.)

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