Reflections on A.C.

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bioethics, informed consent, In re A.C.


In the three years since the tragic deaths of Angela C. and her infant daughter Lindsay Marie, it is already clear that their private drama is destined to become the kind of paradigm case that has a secure niche in the annals of law and ethics. Students of law will read about In re A.C. in their casebooks, and students of ethics will encounter her in appendixes to chapters on autonomy or informed consent, and inevitably in exam questions as well. A.C. will come to stand for a particular legal proposition, a piece of the jigsaw puzzle in approaching difficult cases of informed consent, maternal-fetal welfare, and so on. The sad, intricate, intimate facts that led to the court hearing at George Washington University Hospital on June 16, 1987, will be lost to public view. Ironically, it is these facts that vitiate much of the patient as decision maker, but the facts show that in cases such as these, legal opinions have little influence on the care of individual patients if doctors and other health care personnel do not hold patient autonomy as a central value.



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