Parental Right to Determine Whether to Use Aggressive Treatment for an Early Gestational Age Infant: The Messenger Case
Paris, John J.
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 1997; 16(4): 679-685
Manslaughter charges were brought against Dr. Gregory Messenger, a Michigan (USA) dermatologist, for removing his extremely premature infant son from a ventilator in the neonatal intensive care unit. Prior to delivery the neonatologist had told the parents that at the infant's age there was a 50-70% mortality and that if the child did survive there was a 20-40% chance of severe intraventricular hemorrhage. The newborn infant had been placed on mechanical life support despite the explicit instructions of the parents that they did not want aggressive or resuscitative measures used on their 780g., infant born at 25 weeks gestational age. The defendant argued that given the child's precarious medical status, it was the right of the parents to determine whether or not to institute aggressive medical interventions. The jury acquitted the father of all charges.
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