Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Jersey Supreme Court Punts Questions about Beginning of Life

On September 12th, New Jersey's high court unanimously ruled that a "doctor had 'no legal duty' to tell her that her six-to-eight-week-old embryo was “a complete, separate, unique and irreplaceable human being.'"

According to the NY Times article, the case has some bizarre beginnings as a malpractice suit. They report:

"The decision handed down today reversed a unanimous ruling by a three-judge appeals panel. The case began in 1998, when Rosa Acuna of Bound Brook, a mother of two, sued Sheldon C. Turkish, her gynecologist in Perth Amboy, over an incomplete abortion, and charged that he had not given her sufficient information before she allowed him to perform the abortion.

Mrs. Acuna, now 40, said in court proceedings that when she was in the early stages of pregnancy in 1996, she had asked Dr. Turkish “if it was the baby in there” and that Dr. Turkish had replied, “Don’t be stupid, it’s only blood.”

According to court papers, Dr. Turkish denied having made such a statement, adding that he probably told her that a “seven-week pregnancy is not a living human being,” but rather that it “is just tissue at this time.”

Mrs. Acuna had an abortion, and several weeks later went to the hospital after experiencing bleeding. She said that only after a nurse told her that “the doctor had left parts of the baby inside” did she realize it “was a baby and not just blood” inside her.

In court papers she said that she would not have had the abortion if she had received proper answers to her questions, and that she went on to suffer post-traumatic stress because of the procedure."

Apparently, Ms. Acuna wants the decision appealed to the USSC, so it is a possibility that we could see it go to the court for the spring term next year. The NJ high court did not ultimately rule on when life begins instead saying that, "There is not even remotely a consensus among New Jersey’s medical community or citizenry that the plaintiff’s assertions are medical facts, as opposed to firmly held moral, philosophical and religious beliefs, to support the establishment of the duty she would impose on all physicians."

Five of the court's seven justices weighed in on the case with the two others recusing themselves. No explanation was given for their recusal.

No comments: