restricted access When Ethics Consultation and Courts Collide: A Case of Compelled Treatment of a Mature Minor

A fourteen year old is diagnosed with aplastic anemia. The teen and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses. An ethics consult is called on the day of admission by an ethically sophisticated social worker and attending. The patient and his parents see this diagnosis as “a test of their faith.” The ethical analysis focuses on the mature minor doctrine, i.e. whether the teen has the capacity to make this decision. The hospital chooses to take the case to court, with a result that is at odds with the ethics consultation recommendations. Ethics was never deposed or otherwise invited to be involved with the hearing. Thus the larger question of the relation of ethics and law was brought into stark relief.