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Strunk v. Strunk

445 S.W.2d 145 (1969)

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Strunk v. Strunk

Kentucky Court of Appeals

445 S.W.2d 145 (1969)

Facts

Ava (plaintiff) and Arthur Strunk had two sons, Tommy and Jerry (defendant), who were one year apart in age. Jerry had development issues. As an adult, Jerry had the approximate mental ability of a six-year-old, and he was deemed incompetent and committed to a state institution. Jerry had trouble communicating with anyone who did not know him well. Jerry looked up to his older brother, Tommy, and relied on him emotionally. In his late 20s, Tommy developed a fatal kidney disease that meant he would not live much longer without a kidney transplant. After checking family members and cadavers, doctors determined that the only medically acceptable donor-kidney match was Jerry. Indeed, Jerry’s kidneys were highly compatible with Tommy’s. After several medical professionals examined Jerry, the consensus was that he would be extremely traumatized if Tommy died. Not only would Jerry be harmed by his loss of emotional support, but also, without Tommy, Jerry would not have any living relative or family connection when his parents died. Jerry also understood enough about the possibility of donating a kidney that he might feel intense guilt if Tommy died without getting a transplant. It was likely that Tommy would die without Jerry’s kidney. Further, the medical risks to Jerry from the surgery and kidney removal were relatively low. Weighing all these factors, Jerry’s doctors and the department of mental health determined that it was in Jerry’s best interests to donate the kidney to try to keep his beloved brother alive. Jerry’s entire immediate family supported the donation, and Jerry’s mother sought legal permission to allow Jerry to donate the kidney. A guardian ad litem was appointed for Jerry, and the guardian argued that the government did not have the authority to remove a healthy organ from an incompetent person who was a ward of the state. The county court and the circuit court both ruled that it would be in Jerry’s best interests to have him donate his kidney to Tommy. The case was appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Osborne, J.)

Dissent (Steinfeld, J.)

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