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Health Law & Bioethics before the Minnesota Supreme Court

There are a number of interesting health law and bioethics cases now pending before the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals.  I will review these at a lunchtime workshop on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

1.  State v. Melchert-Dinkel.  William Melchert-Dinkel is a former Minnesota nurse convicted of going online and encouraging two people to kill themselves.  This week, Melcher-Dinkel filed his opening brief the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing that he did not directly participate in the suicides, was merely supporting his alleged victims, and had no influence on their actions.  

2.  State v. Smith.  Eddie Cortez Smith was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Smith is arguing to the Minnesota Supreme Court that he was not responsible for the death because his victim’s “do-not-resuscitate” order kept her from potentially life-saving medical care.

3. Dickhoff v. Green.  A physician failed to diagnose Jocelyn Dickhoff’s cancer.  But even if it had been timely diagnosed, Jocelyn probably would still have had the same result.  The doctor’s negligence made it more likely that she would be injured.  It deprived Jocelyn of an opportunity of a better outcome.  The Minnesota Supreme Court may join a growing number of states that permit plaintiffs to recover where they can establish  only “lost chance” even if not “but for” (more probable than not) causation.  

4.  In re Tschumy.  The Hennepin County Probate Court decided that court-appointed guardians do not have the authority to consent to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment.  The court must specifically authorize such decisions.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals is concerned that the appeal is untimely and moot (Tschumy has died).  But if they reach the merits, they will hopefully clarify the scope of guardian authority for health care decisions.

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