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Details Emerge in New Jersey Wrongful Prolongation of Life Case

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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New details have emerged surrounding the basis for a decision by Morris County Superior Court Judge W. Hunt Dumont to deny defendants’ summary judgment motion in connection with a wrongful prolongation of life lawsuit. The suit was filed by the Suzanne Koerner, executor of the estate of Suzanna Stica, against Morristown Medical Center, Dr. Andrew Youseff and several nurses. Ms. Koerner claims that the defendants contributed to Ms. Stica being forced to live through six months of pain and suffering after they blatantly disregarded “do not resuscitate” and “do not intubate” orders signed by her prior to being admitted into the Medical Center in November 2011. Despite her wishes, Ms. Stica was intubated and confined to a wheelchair as she suffered from bladder and bowel problems, as well as dementia and depression.

According to the New Jersey Law Journal, the defense argued that their actions were immunized under the New Jersey Advance Directive for Health Care Act (“the Act”). However, Judge Dumont rejected the defendants’ argument and stated that the Act only protects the actions of healthcare providers when they are carrying out the wishes of the patient. In the case of Ms. Stica’s care, Judge Dumont reasoned that the defendants “violated Ms. Stica’s fundamental right to refuse unwanted medical care.” Judge Dumont further opined that his September 17, 2017, ruling is a logical extension of New Jersey Supreme Court case Berman v. Allan, which established the doctrine of wrongful birth.

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