This case illustrates the potential for conflicts between healthcare providers and parents regarding the treatment of severely compromised neonates, even when the parents have a sophisticated understanding of the medical circumstances. Dr. Messenger’s child was born prematurely at 25 weeks gestation. The child was placed on life support, against the parent’s wishes. Dr. Messenger himself removed life-support from the child, against the physician’s orders, and the child died. Dr. Messenger was subsequently charged and tried for murder in criminal court, from which he was acquitted by jury. To this day, there have been no criminal convictions of physicians involved in the removal of life-support. (See also, the Barber-Nejdl/Clarence Herbert case.) [Source: 15 T.M. Cooley L. Rev. 115 (1998).]
Principles & Concepts: autonomy, human dignity, sanctity of life, substituted judgment, proportionate/ disproportionate means, quality of life, futility.
1) Identify the key ethical and legal principles relevant to this case.
2) How these ethical principles relate to application of the law and the judicial process in health care.
3) Consider the ramifications if any in current professional practice