In the legal realm, a guardianship gives one person legal power over another’s “affairs of the body,” such as where to live and where to seek medical care. Guardianships are often used in situations where a parent is no longer able to make his or her own decisions, so a child steps in as his or her guardian.
Notice that we said “usually.” There are some situations in which a guardianship is a useful, but somewhat controversial, instrument.
Exactly such a situation is developing in Ohio. That is where an attorney for Children’s Hospital of Akron was recently given guardianship over a 10-year-old girl who has cancer after her parents, who are devout;y Amish, decided to stop her chemotherapy treatments.
According to ABC News, the attorney (who is also a registered nurse) was given a limited guardianship because the court felt that following the parents’ wishes with respect to their child’s medical treatment would have a deleterious effect on the child, who does not have legal capacity to make medical decision on her own.
Lawyers and medical ethicists follow cases like this with interest. Medical advances have been a great boon to society, but in some situations, they lead to conflict — what happens when a medical outcome is possible (or at least arguably worth trying for) but there is tension between that possibility and the wishes, beliefs or worldviews of the party or parties at issue?
As we said earlier, we wanted to report on this story because it seems to be an interesting situation in an emerging area of guardianship law.
If you are interested in learning more about guardianships and how they might be useful to you, we invite you to contact us.