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Name: In re Christopher I.
Case #: G031449
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 02/24/2003
Subsequent History: Rehrg. den. 3/10/03; rev. den. 4/23/03
Summary

The infant minor was violently shaken and thrown against his crib railing by his biological father, who had shaken him on two prior occasions. The minor became a dependent of the juvenile court due to the abuse and mother’s inability to protect him. About a year after the injury, there was a hearing to determine whether removal of life support was in the minor’s best interests. The mother sought withdrawal, and the father opposed it. Counsel for the minor, relying on the unanimous views of the testifying doctors, agreed that withdrawal from life support was in the minor’s best interest. The juvenile court determined that it had the authority to make the decision, and concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that it would be in Christopher’s best interest. Father appealed. The appellate court affirmed the decision. The juvenile court has the authority to determine whether life sustaining medical treatment for a dependent child should be withdrawn, and the decision, which must be supported by clear and convincing evidence, is governed by consideration of the child’s best interests. There must be an evidentiary hearing and testimony. A decision should consider the following factors: the child’s levels of physical, sensory, and cognitive functioning; the quality of life, life expectancy, and the prognosis for recovery; the various treatment options; the degree of pain or suffering resulting from the condition; whether the treatment being provided may cause pain or suffering or whether withdrawal of the treatment would cause pain or suffering; the opinions of the family and their motivations, etc. Here, substantial evidence supported the juvenile court’s determination. The minor had no cognitive function, was in a persistent vegetative state, was in substantial pain, and the immobility caused by his brain damage would cause further problems which will increase over time. The juvenile court properly weighed and balanced the appropriate factors.