Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In re A.C. case brief

In re A.C. case brief summary
573 A.2d 1235 (1990)

Respondent representative of mother appealed the judgment of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which granted petitioner hospital's request for permission to perform a cesarean section to deliver the child of the comatose mother who was dying of cancer.


The mother was 26 weeks pregnant. She was suffering from cancer and was unconscious. The mother's doctors filed a petition requesting permission to perform a cesarean section to deliver the child. During the proceedings, the mother briefly regained consciousness and seemed to have mouthed words to the effect that she did not want the operation performed. The trial court granted the petition. The representative appealed. A panel of the court denied a stay pending appeal, and the operation was performed. Both mother and child died.


  • The court heard the case en banc, and vacated the trial court's judgment. 
  • The court held that if the mother had been competent, she would have had the right to decide whether or not the operation would be performed. 
  • The court held that because the patient was not competent, the trial court should have determined how to proceed based on substituted judgment, or what the mother would have done had she been competent. 
  • The court held that the trial court erred when it based its judgment on the viability of the child instead of on the substituted judgment of the mother.

The court reversed the trial court's judgment which had given the hospital permission to perform a cesarean section on a comatose woman to deliver her child, and the case was remanded.

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