Judicial Responsibility to Decide Bioethics Cases

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Vol. 10, No. 4 (2013 Forthcoming)

4 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2013  

Thaddeus Mason Pope

Mitchell Hamline School of Law; Queensland University of Technology - Australian Health Law Research Center; Saint Georges University; Alden March Bioethics Institute

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

Bioethical questions within the law, especially those concerning life-saving treatment, often require quick decisions. But litigation is notoriously slow and cumbersome. Such disputes are often moot by the time they reach an appellate court — one that can issue a decision of precedential value — because a decision by the court can have no practical legal effect on the controversy.

While courts normally dismiss moot cases, there are some important exceptions. Most notably, appellate courts have adjudicated moot bioethics cases in two main situations: (1) when the issues are of public importance and (2) when the issues are capable of repetition yet evading review.

But, increasingly, appellate courts are abdicating their responsibility to decide moot cases satisfying these exceptions. This is problematic. The lack of recent legislative movement on divisive and emotional bioethical issues such as medical futility and mature minors suggests that they are “too hot” for the political branch of government. If the courts also fail to provide direction, then we are left with a policy vacuum.

Using two recent U.S. decisions, I argued that appellate courts have a judicial and social responsibility to decide bioethics cases that satisfy a recognized exception to mootness.

Keywords: bioethics, bioethical, life-saving, dispute, precedential value, appellate court, moot cases, medical futility, mature minors, Roe v. Wade, Sheila W., aplastic anemia, controversy, judicial, judge, Gableman, Betancounrt v. Trinitas Hospital, emotional

JEL Classification: H51, I00, I10, I18, K32, K13, K41

Suggested Citation

Pope, Thaddeus Mason, Judicial Responsibility to Decide Bioethics Cases (2013). Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Vol. 10, No. 4 (2013 Forthcoming) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2330999

Thaddeus Mason Pope (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Avenue
Room 320
Saint Paul, MN 55105
United States
651-695-7661 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.thaddeuspope.com

Queensland University of Technology - Australian Health Law Research Center ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Saint Georges University ( email )

West Indies
Grenada

HOME PAGE: http://www.thaddeuspope.com

Alden March Bioethics Institute ( email )

47 New Scotland Ave
MC 153
Albany, NY 12208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.thaddeuspope.com

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