Tschumy: Guardian Can Consent to Remove Life Support

court opinionThe Minnesota Supreme Court issued it’s long awaited opinion in the Tschumy case today, affirming the Court of Appeals decision that the power of a guardian to consent to necessary medical treatment for a ward under Minn. Stat. 524.5-313(c) (4)(i), inclues the power to consent to the removal of a ward from life support, without a separate court order/proceeding, if all interested parties agree that removal is in the ward’s best interest.

The Tschumy decision can be found here.

The decision, issued by Chief Justice Gildea, is 35 pages long.  Justice Anderson wrote a 9 page dissent.  Justice Stras wrote a 28 page dissent, which was joined in by Justice Page.

I will provide more in depth analysis of this important decision after I have the opportunity to read the opinion.

Minnesota Supreme Court Accepts Review of Tschumy Case

The Minnesota Supreme Court has granted review of the case of In Re: Guardianship of Jeffers Tschumy.  The question before the Court is essentially:  Does a guardian have authority to remove a ward from life support without seeking the specific authority of the district court?

Factual Background:  A guardian was appointed for Tschumy in 2008.  He was not married and had no family.  In 2012 Tschumy choked on a piece of food and as a result suffered severe brain injury and became comotose.  His professional guardian, Joseph Vogel, wanted to remove him from life support.  Allina hospital petitioned the district court asking the Court to amend the letters to give the guardian the specific authority to end life support or for the Court to direct the removal of life support.  The guardian agreed that life support should be removed, but believed that he already had authority under the statute and court order appointing him, which allowed him to withdraw medical consent. The district court agreed with Allina and ordered the guardian to have life support removed.  Tschumy died.  The district court then issued a follow up order, with a more detailed explanation, reasoning that although guardians have broad power to withhold consent to medical treatment, they do not have statutory authority to end life support without a court hearing and court direction. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court order, holding that final authority on end of life decision making lies with the guardian and should not be directed by the district court.

A decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court is expected in 2014.