Bioethics Blogs

Marwa Bouchenafa – French Court Orders Clinicians to Treat Baby over Their Objections

Marwa Bouchenafa was born in November 2015. Last September, she
suffered a severe viral infection that resulted in neurological damage,
paralyzed limbs, and dependence on mechanical ventilation.

In November 2016, the hospital determined that further treatment was
inappropriate.  Unable to obtain parental consent, the hospital invoked French
Public Health Code 
.  It provides that “acts of medical care should not
be pursued with unreasonable obstinacy. When they appear to be of no use,
disproportionate, or having no other effect than artificial maintenance of
life, they can be suspended or not be undertaken.”

But the hospital was unable to establish that Marwa’s case met these standards.
While the local court in Marseille agreed, in February 2017, that Marwa had an
extremely negative prognosis, it disagreed that her treatment met the
conditions for therapeutic obstinacy.

The hospital appealed to the Council of State (Le Conseil d’Etat), the forum of
last resort in France.  In March 2017, that court
 It based its decision primarily on the ground that there is still some
uncertainty about Marwa’s prognosis and prospects for improvement.

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.