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New York Court Dismisses Medical Malpractice Case Asserting a Wrongful Life Claim

Many people have advanced directives that indicate that they do not want to receive life-sustaining treatment in the event they contract a terminal illness or suffer an acute medical event. Thus, if a doctor in a hospital prolongs the life of a person with a living will, it may go against the person’s ultimate wishes. It likely does not constitute medical malpractice, however, as discussed in a recent New York ruling in which the court stated that New York does not recognize a cause of action for wrongful life and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against a hospital. If you or a loved one sustained losses because of negligent care in a hospital, it is prudent to meet with a Syracuse hospital malpractice lawyer to assess your rights.

The Decedent’s Care

It is reported that in 1993, the decedent drafted a living will that stated he did not want to receive life-sustaining treatment if he was terminally ill. In 2017, the decedent’s health had deteriorated to the point that he would likely soon die. The defendant hospital, which was tasked with caring for the defendant, was notified of the living will by the decedent’s health care agent. The defendant nonetheless provided the decedent with antibiotics and intravenous treatment, prolonging his life by twenty days.

Allegedly, after the decedent passed away, the plaintiff instituted a malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging it unnecessarily prolonged the decedent’s pain and suffering. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff was asserting a wrongful life claim which was not a valid cause of action under New York law. The court agreed, granting the defendant’s motion.

Wrongful Life Claims Under New York Law

A wrongful life claim is a term used for a medical malpractice claim that is asserted by a parent or guardian on behalf of an injured child that arises out of the theory that the child would have been better off having never been born. The New York courts do not recognize wrongful life claims because, as a matter of public policy, a child born in an injured state does not suffer an injury for being born as compared to not being alive.

In other words, wrongful life is a cause of action that requires the court to make a damages calculation by comparing the choice of living in an impaired state versus not living at all, which is an analysis the courts are not equipped to undertake. Ultimately, the court stated that competent adults have the right to have their wishes regarding medical treatment honored in the event that they lose the ability to make the decisions for themselves, and the law recognizes that right, but it does not recognize a cause of action for wrongfully prolonging a life. Thus, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment was granted.

Meet with a Trusted Syracuse Attorney

People who are harmed by incompetent care in hospitals may be able to pursue hospital malpractice claims, and it is wise for them to seek legal counsel about their options. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our trusted medical malpractice attorneys can advise you of your possible claims and help you to pursue any damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us through our online form or at 315-479-9000 to schedule a meeting.

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