The ACLU first learned about this case after (Samantha) Burton's pro bono lawyer, David Abrams, called us for help as he pursued an appeal of the lower court's order confining Ms. Burton to hospital bed rest. Frankly, I wasn't surprised to hear that the State of Florida had stepped in to override the medical decision-making of a pregnant woman — unfortunately we have seen that before. What was even more stunning than in other cases was the unlimited breadth of the court order; the complete lack of any consideration of Ms. Burton's constitutional rights or health; and the fact that the hearing had gone forward with no legal or other advocate to represent Ms. Burton. After a brief telephone hearing, and no review of her medical records or consideration of a second medical opinion, the circuit court summarily ordered Ms. Burton to submit to any and all medical treatments and interventions — including eventually a C-section — that the hospital's medical staff deemed appropriate. To top it off, the court ordered her to remain confined on constant bed rest at the very hospital where the disagreement arose, and expressly prohibited her from switching to another hospital.
Burton is appealing, and the ACLU joined in on her side.
The right to refuse medical treatment in most circumstances is pretty clear, but courts can intervene in cases of children. The ACLU argued that the lower court expanded that right to include the unborn child (Burton -- who wanted to take care of her two children, return to her job, and get a second opinion -- was 25 weeks pregnant). The only other option is that the court thought Burton was incapable of making her own informed decisions regarding her care.
Arguments began yesterday in 1st District Court of Appeals, the ACLU writes. It's hard to imagine Burton won't win; it's pretty outrageous on the part of the lower court. But while her day of reckoning may come, it's a little too late.
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