Sunday, December 8, 2013

In re Phillip B. case brief

In re Phillip B. case brief summary
156 Cal. Rptr. 48 (1979)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Appellant state challenged an order from the Superior Court of Santa Clara County (California), which dismissed its petition to declare juvenile a dependent child for the special purpose of ensuring that he receive cardiac surgery for a congenital heart defect after his parents had refused to consent to the surgery.

CASE FACTS
Appellant state petitioned that a juvenile be declared a dependent child for the special purpose of ensuring that he receive cardiac surgery for a congenital heart defect after his parents refused to consent to the surgery. The trial court denied the petition and appellant challenged the decision.

DISCUSSION

  • On appeal the court affirmed, finding that the parents' autonomy was constitutionally protected under the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. Constitutional Amendment XIV. 
  • Parents' autonomy was not absolute and the state could interfere to safeguard the child's well being. 
  • The court found that under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 300(b) a child could be adjudged a dependent of the court if the child was not provided with the necessities of life. 
  • The court agreed with the trial court's finding that there was no clear and convincing evidence to sustain the petition after reviewing medical testimony of the risks to the child considering the fact he was born with Down's Syndrome, which made the surgery riskier.
CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the denial of appellant state's petition to have a juvenile declared a dependent child for the court to ensure that he have cardiac surgery. The juvenile's parents had autonomy over decisions concerning their child, that autonomy would not be abridged by the state unless in was in the juvenile's best interest, and the trial court correctly determined that surgery posed a substantial risk.


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