Who Makes the Decisions, Especially When it Concerns Minors?
Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (2013) 10:441–444
Posted: 22 Oct 2018
Date Written: October 18, 2018
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. Famously, the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade proceeded to decide the constitutionality of restrictions on abortion, even though the plaintiff’s baby had already been born (Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)). After all, “the normal 266-day human gestation period is so short that the pregnancy will come to term before the usual appellate process is complete.If that termination makes a case moot, pregnancy litigation seldom will survive much beyond the trial stage, and appellate review will be effectively denied” . Roe is not unique in this respect. Traditionally, 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.
Keywords: mature minor, life-sustaining treatment, mootness, parental authority
JEL Classification: K00, K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation