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In one of the most wrenching issues it has decided in years, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that a hospital was not liable for reviving a premature newborn child-against the parents’ wishes-even though the resuscitation resulted in severe injuries to the baby. In a case of first impression, the court had to decide in Miller v. HCA Inc. whether the parents or the hospital had the authority to make the decision to resuscitate the baby, who was born with severe health problems. The parents, Karla and Mark Miller, successfully sued Houston’s The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, a subsidiary of HCA, for negligence and battery in 1998, winning $43 million from a jury after arguing that the hospital ignored their prebirth instructions not to resuscitate their baby daughter, Sidney. A physician had advised the parents that if their child was revived, she would likely suffer permanent physical and mental injuries, alleges their attorney, David Keltner. The parents did not sue Sidney’s doctors and instead targeted the hospital, whose procedures, they alleged, directed their child’s treatment. The hospital successfully appealed the decision to the Texas Court of Appeals in Houston, which overturned the award on Dec. 28, 2000, in a 2-1 decision. The court found that the hospital had no duty to refrain from resuscitating the baby because the Millers had no right to deny the medical treatment given to Sidney. ‘Emergent circumstances’ But in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Craig Enoch, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s ruling, but on different grounds. The Supreme Court found that “emergent circumstances” are an exception to the general rule that a physician commits a battery by providing medical treatment to a child without the parents’ consent. Enoch noted that the doctor who delivered Sidney could not make a proper evaluation on whether to revive her until after she was born. “As such, the exception is narrowly circumscribed and arises only in emergent circumstances when there is no time to consult the parents or seek court intervention if the parents withhold consent,” Enoch wrote.

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