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In re Guardianship of Tschumy

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

July 29, 2013

In re the Guardianship of: Jeffers J. Tschumy, Ward.

Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-GC-PR-07-496

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Nathan Brennaman, Mikiesha R. Mayes, Assistant Attorneys General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for amicus curiae State of Minnesota)

Robert A. McLeod, Karla M. Vehrs, Lindsey Middlecamp, Lindquist & Vennum, L.L.P., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and

Charles W. Singer, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant Joseph Vogel, guardian and conservator of Jeffers J. Tschumy)

Michael J. Biglow, Law Offices of Michael J. Biglow, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent-ward Jeffers J. Tschumy)

Rebecca Egge Moos, Rachel B. Peterson, Charles E. Lundberg, Bassford Remele, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent Allina Health System)

Diane B. Bratvold, Jennifer A. Lammers, Amie E. Penny Sayler, Briggs & Morgan, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and

Benjamin Peltier, Minnesota Hospital Association, St. Paul, Minnesota; and

Teresa Knoedler, Minnesota Medical Association, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for amici curiae Minnesota Hospital Association and Minnesota Medical Association)

Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Stauber, Judge; and Toussaint, Judge. [*]

SYLLABUS

Unless otherwise limited in the guardianship order, a guardian's power to consent to necessary medical or other professional care for a ward under Minn. Stat. § 524.5-313(c)(4) (2012) includes the power to authorize disconnection of a permanently unconscious ward's life-support systems without seeking an order from the district court.

OPINION

HUDSON, Judge

Appellant guardian challenges the district court's determination that he was required to seek an order from the district court to authorize the discontinuation of a permanently unconscious ward's life-support systems. Because the statutory grant of medical-consent power to a guardian, unless otherwise limited by court order, encompasses the authority to discontinue medical treatment for a permanently unconscious ward, we conclude that, if no interested party has objected, a guardian holding that power need not seek an order from the district court before authorizing disconnection of the ward's life-support systems.

FACTS

In April 2008, the district court issued an order placing respondent Jeffers J. Tschumy under general guardianship. Tschumy, who resided in a nursing facility, was 53 years old, unmarried, and without children. He suffered from mental health impairments, diabetes, effects from a stroke, and partial paralysis from a spinal infection. An evaluation of his mental ability showed that he functioned within the average to moderately-impaired range and that he would need assistance with his health care, housing, transportation, food, and finances. His behavior at the nursing facility was consistent with this evaluation. The district court found that Tschumy was incapacitated and appointed Tschumy's then-conservator as general guardian.

In 2008 and 2009, Tschumy's condition remained stable. In October 2009, the district court removed the original guardian and appointed appellant Joseph Vogel, a professional guardian, as successor guardian. The successor guardianship order and letters provided that, among other powers, the guardian had the power provided in Minn. Stat. § 524.5-313(c)(4) (2008) to "[g]ive any necessary consent to enable, or to withhold consent for, [Tschumy] to receive necessary medical or other professional care, counsel, treatment, or service."

On April 15, 2012, while living in a group home, Tschumy suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest after choking on food. Although he survived, he suffered severe and irreversible brain injury and became deeply comatose. Tschumy was placed on a medical ventilator, medication to lessen seizure activity, and intravenous fluids. He also received intravenous nutrition.

Tschumy did not have a health care directive, and the guardian was unable to locate any family members or friends who might have knowledge or information regarding Tschumy's preferences about end-of-life decisions or whether he had ever expressed any religious or moral beliefs regarding those decisions. When the guardian had ...


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