Alliance sues UW Hospital after denying care to developmentally disabled 13-year-old boy

Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Wisconsin Supreme Court that supports a lawsuit against University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics after it denied treatment to two developmentally disabled patients even though they were not in a persistent vegetative state and were not terminally ill. One of the patients, a 13-year-old boy, died; the other, a 79-year-old woman, survived.

Without a court order and according to state law, a hospital can withhold treatment only if the patient has received a PVS diagnosis or has expressed a desire to refuse life-sustaining treatment prior to legal incompetency. Neither patient fit these qualifications.

“Having a disability shouldn’t be a death sentence,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Catherine Glenn Foster. “Neither patient was in an end-of-life situation. Allowing the hospital to get away with withholding treatment in this way endangers vulnerable patients and puts all patients’ lives – particularly those of patients with disabilities – at grave risk.”

A doctor with UW Hospitals and Clinics agreed to withhold treatment from a 13-year-old developmentally disabled boy given his “poor prognosis and poor quality of life” after only one meeting, no physical exam, no observation of his daily life, and no consultation with his long-term care team. UW physicians took him under their care, cut off his antibiotics for pneumonia, eliminated his nutrition and hydration, and sent him to hospice, where he died.
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