45_DePaul_L._Rev._1165,_.DOC

45_DePaul_L._Rev._1165,_.DOC - Page 1 FOCUS - 7 of 26...

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Page 1 FOCUS - 7 of 26 DOCUMENTS Copyright (c) 1996 DePaul Law Review DePaul Law Review Summer, 1996 45 DePaul L. Rev. 1165 COMMENT: THE POTENTIAL RIGHT OF CHRONICALLY ILL ADOLESCENTS TO REFUSE LIFE -SAVING MEDICAL TREATMENT - FATAL MISUSE OF THE MATURE MINOR DOC- TRINE NAME: Jessica A. Penkower * Introduction A court's consideration of whether to legally sanction an adolescent's n1 refusal of life-saving medical treatment n2 necessarily involves balancing significant ethical interests. On one side of the scale is the interest of the chronically ill adolescent who feels he or she cannot tolerate another day of illness and/or treatment. n3 On the other side is [*1166] the interest of society in preserving the ad- olescent's life. n4 Regardless of how the scale of ethics may tip, courts have historically refused to indulge in any sort of balancing of interests and have uniformly forbidden minors from making such weighty decisions for themselves. n5 Common law holds that any person under the age of majority is a minor n6 and is legally incapable of rendering or withholding consent for medical treatment. n7 The minor's intolerance for his or her illness and/or treatment is not legally relevant. Recently, however, courts have begun to deviate from the common law maxim in order to allow certain chronically ill minors to discontinue necessary medical treatment. n8 The tool utilized by courts is the "mature minor doctrine," which permits a minor who exhibits the "maturity" of an adult to make decisions that traditionally have been reserved for persons who have attained the age of major- ity. n9 One [*1167] may initially interpret this phenomenon as an expansion of the rights of minors, based upon judicial recognition that chronically ill adolescents are (or may be) as mature as adults. n10 However, as this Comment will demonstrate, "maturity" is not a well-defined legal term, n11 and the mature minor doctrine is more an instrument of paternalism than a conduit of liberty for adolescents. n12 The doctrine is nonetheless capable of effecting drastic consequences. This Comment will explore the anomaly of adolescents being afforded the right to refuse life -saving medical treatment purportedly on the basis of their "maturity." Such anomaly is aptly illustrated by the following case. During the summer of 1994, fifteen-year-old Benny Agrelo, a two-time liver transplant recipient residing in Florida, was given permission by a Broward County Juvenile Court judge to stop taking immunosuppressant drugs necessary to sustain his life. n13 Benny had previously discontinued his anti-rejection regimen because it caused him to suffer debilitating headaches and severe irritability. n14
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2011 for the course PHIL 2400 taught by Professor Shaefer during the Spring '11 term at Xavier LA.

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45_DePaul_L._Rev._1165,_.DOC - Page 1 FOCUS - 7 of 26...

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