July 2, 2022

Surgery on hold as patient appeals competency finding

In March the Montana Supreme Court allowed a woman to appeal a court-ordered hysterectomy.

In March the Montana Supreme Court allowed a woman to appeal a court-ordered hysterectomy. The woman life was at risk, but she had refused the procedure because, doctors said, she was mentally incompetent.

The case could clarify similar situations elsewhere. “As our population ages, this is an area of law that is going to have more and more relevance in people’s lives. And having a clear definition of what the law allows as far as intervention in these circumstances will be helpful,” said Beth Brenneman, of Disability Rights Montana.

The patient – named in court documents only as L.K. – was diagnosed with cervical cancer but refused the hysterectomy recommended by doctors on religious and personal grounds. A psychiatrist said that the woman was experiencing religious delusions that God had cured her illness although L.K.’s attorney argued that these were simply deeply held religious beliefs.  Another doctor declared that she had an 85% chance of dying within three years without treatment.

A district court found that L.K. lacked the competence to make her own medical decisions and ordered the procedure to take place. L.K. filed an emergency petition asking the Supreme Court to suspend the order, arguing that the district court procedure was “causing a gross injustice and involves constitutional dignity and religious freedom issues of statewide importance.” ~
American Medical News, Apr 4

Surgery on hold as patient appeals competency finding
Jared Yee
informed consent
law