Bioethics Blogs

New Futility Case: Hunt v. Delaware DFS

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Delaware handed down a 45-page opinion in a medical futility case involving a 7-month-old baby.  

The court affirmed a trial court ruling that authorized a guardian to “De-escalate Medical Intervention and Place a Do Not Re-Intubate order and a Do Not Resuscitate Order.”  The patient’s parents objected. 

Multiple clinicians from A.I. duPont Children’s Hospital confirmed that the baby “will always require mechanical assistance to eat and breathe; never walk or talk; not be able to interact or respond to those around him; require twenty-four-hour care for all of his needs by a trained caretaker; likely be deaf and blind; and need to wear diapers for the rest of his life.”

Perhaps most notable is that, in contrast to several other courts in similar cases, the Delaware Supreme Court held that the trial court had the authority to authorize the stopping of life-sustaining treatment “even though there had been no termination of parental rights.”

Also worth noting:

  • The trial court did a careful, point-by-point analysis of why the order was in the patient’s best interest.
  • The court clarified that an “independent medical expert” should not come from the same facility as the treating clinicians, even if she/he had no prior exposure to the case.
  • While this was a child abuse case between the state an the parents, it illuminates a dispute resolution pathway that the hospital could have taken, if this were a treatment conflict case without abusive trauma.  

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.