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Betancourt v. Trinitas Oral Argument - part 9

Posted May 04 2010 6:08pm
Interestingly, no party in Betancourt cited Suenram v. Society of the Valley Hospital, 155 N.J. Super. 593 (Law. Div. 1977).  While a Law Division opinion is not binding on the Appellate Division, the Appellate Division certainly takes the time to consider the application of such judicial opinions, particularly when published.  Fisher v. Division of Law400 N.J.Super. 61 (A.D. 2008).

The holding of Suenram is quite plain.  A terminally ill patient was granted an injunction against a hospital that did not want to provide treatment that it considered medically inappropriate.  The court's opinion ends:  "To deny a person her last opportunity to make a choice as how to combat a disease which has ravaged her body would display a lack of understanding of the meaning od the individual's rights in out free society."

The treatment at issue in Suenram was of uncertain effectiveness.  If a N.J. patient has a right to such treatment, then pro tanto it seems Ruben Betancourt is entitled to treatment (dialysis) of proven and unquestioned effectiveness.  All that was questioned in Betancourt was the wothwhileness of the treatment.  But, in New Jersey, that non-medical value judgment is for the patient himself.

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