The justices ruled Friday that a lawsuit brought by a Georgia family who say they have been harmed by the practice will proceed, but the ruling does not require the state to take steps to change its practices.
The justices ruled that the family of one patient with an incurable lung condition had standing to sue the doctors of the family’s practice, and that they have the right to challenge the practice on constitutional grounds.
The ruling came in a case involving the parents of a 7-year-old girl who died of pneumonia after receiving an elective colostomy tube transplant.
The girl was transferred from a family member to the family doctor’s office for a colonoscopy after her parents were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The hospital declined to treat the girl, and the parents sued the hospital, which then moved to shut the hospital down.
The Georgia Court of Appeals found that the parents were entitled to sue because they had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the medical procedure and because the doctors acted with “unreasonable” care.
They also claimed that the doctors knew or should have known that they were violating a patient’s constitutional rights, according to court filings.
The appeals court agreed that the Georgia court of appeals correctly ruled that it would be unfair for a hospital to take away a patient with a serious illness who could die if she were transferred to another hospital, even if that hospital had a better care of the patient.
The decision came on the same day that the court of appeal overturned a lower court ruling that had granted the family a temporary injunction that would allow the hospital to reopen the operation.
The appeals court said that the injunction should be stayed pending the outcome of the case, which is now pending in the state Supreme Court.