Bioethics Blogs

US District Court Rejects Attack on Brain Death

US District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller

On Friday, the US District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a clearly written and cogent decision in Fonseca v. Kaiser, upholding the California Uniform Determination of Death Act.

The court “recognized the unease with which some regard brain death.”  But, on balance, the court found that “a professional doubt surrounding brain death as death, legally or medically, represents a minority position.”

Three times, Israel Stinson was diagnosed as dead.  Consequently, Kaiser clinicians want to stop physiological support.  Various court orders have already delayed them for nearly a month.  But time is now running out.

The court found that the family’s claims lacked sufficient merit to grant a preliminary injunction.  The court stayed its decision for a week.  And the family will probably get another few weeks as they appeal to (and probably ultimately lose before) the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The court determined that the family’s constitutional substantive and procedural due process claims were unlikely to succeed.  The CUDDA is a rational law supported by lots of valid policy objectives.  Moreover, such claims are not properly stated against Kaiser and its physician in any case, since they are not “state actors.”

The court also determined that the sole statutory claim (that could be asserted against Kaiser) lacked merit, since EMTALA does not apply to inpatients.  

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.