A state appellate court has decided against using the "right-to-die" case of Anna Hirth as a vehicle to lay down rules governing physicians' conduct when patients or their relatives seek the termination of life-sustaining treatment.
Hirth, a La Mesa great-grandmother, died in May after months of litigation between her daughter, Helen Gary, and her physician, Dr. Allen Jay. Hirth had become semi-comatose after a choking incident early in 1986. Gary wanted Jay to remove the feeding tube that kept her mother alive, but Jay refused, citing medical and ethical grounds.
Despite Hirth's death, Gary's lawyer asked the 4th District Court of Appeal to reinstate a Superior Court judge's decision ordering Jay to remove the tube. Attorney Richard Scott contended that physicians needed a clear judicial directive to guide their conduct in similar cases.
But in an opinion issued Friday, the appellate court said the issue was better left to health care professionals, bar associations and the state Legislature. It noted that the San Diego County Medical Society and San Diego County Bar Assn. hope to develop joint guidelines for right-to-die cases and that legislation on physicians' duties is pending.