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Brooklyn court gives OK to amputate leg of mentally ill patient

February 9, 2015 By Charisma L. Troiano, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hon. Ruth Belkin, Eagle file photo by Mario Belluomo
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A Brooklyn appeals court has ruled against a mentally ill patient’s petition to refuse medical treatment, and the patient, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, was deemed incapable of making her own decisions regarding her medical care. A unanimous panel affirmed a lower court order to enforce the medical amputation. 

The patient, identified as Marietta Mc., is a patient at the Forest Hills Hospital in Queens. She appealed to the Appellate Division, Second Department, to stay the enforcement of a previous order allowing the hospital to amputate her left leg. 

The hospital challenged the petition, arguing that Marietta Mc. lacked, “‘the capacity to make a reasoned decision’ with respect to the proposed medical treatment,” court papers indicate. 

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The hospital was required to prove by using clear and convincing evidence that it was substantially probable that Marietta Mc. was unable to make decisions as to her care.

A Queens County judge agreed with Forest Hills’ hospital lawyers that “with respect to the proposed medical treatment, i.e., a below-the-knee amputation of her left leg,” Marietta was unable to understand how important the amputation was to her health. 

The panel of Brooklyn appellate justices upheld the Queens ruling, holding that Marietta Mc. “lacked the capacity to understand the nature or severity of her medical condition, or the severe consequences that would likely result if the condition were left untreated.” 

In addition, the higher court ruled that by amputating Marietta’s leg, the hospital chose a fairly restrictive or “narrowly tailored” medical option available, giving Marietta medical care with limited burden on her right to liberty.  

Using the testimony of a Forest Hills Hospital vascular surgeon as evidence, the four justices determined that leg amputation was “narrowly tailored to give substantive effect to the [appellant’s] liberty interest.” 

Justices Peter Skelos, Ruth Balkin, L. Priscilla Hall and Joseph Maltese sat on the Brooklyn appellate panel. 

Mental Hygiene Legal Service appeared for the hospital, and the firm La Salle, La Salle & Dwyer, P.C. served as Marietta Mc.’s counsel.

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