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Posted on October 25, 2020 at 10:22 AM

The Supreme Court of New Hampshire has issued a second 2020 opinion on the scope of guardian authority to make decisions about life-sustaining treatment for a ward. 

In its prior opinion, the court determined that guardians have the authority to make such decisions unless limited by the court. In the newer opinion, the court made two holdings. 

First, it held that a court may not limit a guardian’s authority to withhold life-sustaining treatment unless the court deems such action desirable for the best interests of the ward.

Second, and more controversially, the court held that when a guardian makes a decision to withhold life-sustaining treatment, the guardian is guided by the best interest standard and not by the ward’s known preferences and values. In other words, the guardian’s job is NOT to place herself into the position of the ward and do what the ward would have done. 

While this reading may have been required by the text of the relevant statutes, it contradicts the bulk of rules and principles on surrogate decision making.  

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