The appellant, E.S., was a 38-year-old mother of three. She was practicing Jehovah’s Witness who consistently maintained that blood transfusions were against her religion. She told her obstetrician at her last pre-delivery appointment that she would refuse a blood transfusion if complications arose during delivery. After that appointment, E.S. gave her husband, also a Jehovah’s Witness, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Nonetheless, her brother, A.C., filed an ex parte application to serve as her “curator to the person,” for the purpose of authorizing medical procedures on E.S., including blood transfusions after she suffered complications including a hysterectomy after giving birth. In support of his application, E.S.’s brother argued that, as a parent, E.S.’s individual autonomy had to be weighed against the interests of her family. He also offered testimony from her doctor, who explained that her blood and oxygen levels were too low to support full brain function. The trial court granted the application. The Supreme Court addressed three issues: whether the matter was moot after E.S.’s medical recovery, whether the lower court erred in granting A.C.’s application to be appointed his sister’s curator and have blood transfusions administered, and whether young children’s right to be raised by their parents supersedes the right of an individual to refuse a blood transfusion in life-threatening circumstances. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court, finding that “written advanced directives which are specific, not compromised by undue influence, and signed at a time when the patient has decisional capacity construe clear evidence of a patient’s intentions regarding their medical treatment” (¶56) and “the right to choose what can and cannot be done to one’s body, whether one is a parent or not, is an inalienable right” (¶ 71). The court made clear that a woman’s status as a mother does not restrict her right to liberty and privacy, especially where decisions of medical treatment are involved.
E.S. v. A.C.