Bioethics Blogs

DRW v. University of Wisconsin – Facilitating Surrogates’ “Illegal” Decisions to Stop Life-Sustaining Treatment

I blogged about this case over five years ago when it was first filed.  Disability Rights Wisconsin sued the University of Wisconsin and several individual physicians over their “plan of noncare” for several patients.  

Basically, DRW’s argument is that because these patients were not permanently unconscious Wisconsin law does not allow life-sustaining treatment to be withdrawn (see, e.g., Edna MF; Montalvo).  In other words, the substitute decision makers in this case did not have the authority to authorize withholding or withdrawing of “potentially life-extending medical treatments.”  And the clinicians knew that (or should have known that).


A few days ago, a Wisconsin appellate court held that the defendant physicians did not violate any substantive due process rights of the patients.  There is no constitutional right to medical care from the government.  The court expressed “no opinion about any potential obligations that the doctors might have . . . pursuant to nonconstitutional sources of authority that include tort law, or ethical, professional, or institutional codes.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.