Bioethics Blogs

Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Removes Life Support over Parents’ Objections

Steffen Rivenburg Jr. was born in October 2016 with a congenital heart defect. In February 2017, because his parents had missed several medical appointments, the Tennessee Department of Child Services took custody.  But during that time, Steffen became quite ill.


Steffen was admitted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital where he had several heart surgeries and was placed on ECMO.  He needed a heart transplant, but was too sick to be eligible. Determining it was in Steffen’s best interest, Vanderbilt planned to withdraw life-sustaining treatment.


On May 30, Steffen’s parents obtained a court injunction mandating Vanderbilt to continue treatment until June 6.  The Montgomery County, Tennessee Juvenile Court later denied the parents’ request for an extension.  Vanderbilt discontinued life-sustaining treatment on June 8.


In some states, like Ohio, temporary guardians may not consent to withdrawing life-sustaining treatment unless there has been a termination of parental rights.  In other states, like Delaware, temporary guardians may consent to withdrawing life-sustaining treatment if that is in the child’s best interest.  

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.