Clarence Herbert had surgery for a bowel disease and had cardiac issues shortly thereafter. The cardiac issues caused him to slip into a coma. Doctors gave him little to no chance of recovering.
His family requested that he be taken off of life support and that the feeding tubes be removed.
This was done, and Herbert eventually died.
Barber (D) was the attending physician. D was charged with murder.
Trial court dismissed the charges against D.
CA Superior Court reversed, reinstated the charges against D.
COA CA reversed, dismissed the charges against D.
Does a doctor have a duty to keep his patient alive through forced respiration and nutrition?
A doctor does not have a duty to keep his patient alive through forced respiration and nutrition as long as these are the wishes of the patient or the family if the patient is unable to make his choice known.
The decision to withdraw support must be looked at in terms of a benefits versus burdens analysis.
If there were a reasonable chance of recovery, the benefits outweigh the burdens. Where there is no such chance, as here, there is no such benefit.
Respiration and nutrition are defined as extraordinary support.
A doctor can, without objection from the family, cease extraordinary support.