Sidney Miller "Wrongful Life" Case Overturned By State Supreme
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 1, 2003
AUSTIN, TEXAS--In a case closely watched by disability rights advocates, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that doctors do not need to have parental permission before taking emergency measures to save the life of infants with disabilities.
In a 7-0 ruling, the high court threw out the $60 million award given to Mark and Karla Miller. The couple had sued HCA Inc., the company that owns Women's Hospital in Houston after their daughter, Sidney Ainsley Miller was born four months premature in 1990.
The Millers claimed that doctors informed them before Sidney was born that she would likely have severe disabilities. But after she was born, doctors ignored their requests that "no heroic measures" be taken to keep Sidney alive. Doctors gave oxygen to the newborn through a throat tube because her underdeveloped lungs would not breath on their own.
Attorneys for the hospital argued that once Sidney was born, doctors were obligated to do whatever it took to keep her alive.
The state Supreme Court agreed with the hospital, noting that the courts and state law recognize parents rights, but that there are limits when it comes to withholding treatment.
A Harris County jury in 1998 awarded the $60 million to the Millers, but that award was thrown out on appeal. The Supreme Court ruling validates the appellate court decision.
"It was not a case of choice. She was born," said Bob Kafka, organizer of the disability rights group ADAPT. "Do disabled children have a right to live? To us, it's about how disabled people's lives are valued. Even people with significant disabilities should not be terminated just because of those disabilities."