The Kentucky Supreme Court issued a stunning decision on August 26th granting legal authority to the state of Kentucky to end the life of a totally innocent ward of the state. The case involved a mildly retarded black male, Matthew Woods, who was placed on a ventilator after suffering cardiac arrest at the age of 54. The state requested permission to remove his life support, contrary to the wishes of Woods' guardian at litem.
Although Woods died of natural causes during the litigation process, the Court agreed to rule on the legality of the state's request because of the legal questions involved. Prior to his natural death, Woods had never expressed whether he wanted life-supporting measures removed.
Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, commented, "This decision is another step down the slippery slope toward a culture of death where the government decides which lives are worthy to be lived. Kentucky should protect the welfare and rights of all of its citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable. The state Supreme Court has now declared that the lives of some of its citizens are not worthy of protection."
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, cooperating attorney Robert Cetrulo, submitted an amicus brief to the Kentucky Supreme Court, urging the Court to apply Kentucky's guardianship for disabled persons statute, which would prohibit the state from authorizing the removal of a ward's life support without his consent.
A majority of the Kentucky Supreme Court disagreed with the Law Center's position and determined that the "Kentucky Living Will Directive Act" constitutionally permits the Commonwealth to authorize the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment from an incompetent ward of the state without any evidence of the ward's desires regarding such treatment.
Two justices of the Court however agreed with the position of the Thomas More Law Center. Justice Wintersheimer, joined by Justice Stumbo, strongly dissented from the majority's decision: "It is deeply disappointing that this Court would decide to allow an agency of this State to end the life of a totally innocent ward of that very same State. It is even more shameful to realize that the State would seek to terminate the innocent human life of a person entrusted to its care and protection."
Justice Wintersheimer warned, "Today, this case involves a mentally deficient ward of the State. Who knows whom it will involve in the future? Only by making the mistaken assumption that it could never happen, the power of the State has been unleashed to kill its own citizens."