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Girl Refuses Heart Transplant — Should Doctors Step In?


Hannah, a 13-year-old British girl suffering from leukemia and a heart condition, has declined a heart transplant. Her refusal could ultimately lead to her death. After the hospital originally threatened to take legal action to force her to obtain the surgery, medical professionals had a change of heart. The doctors interviewed Hannah and realized that she had made a thought-out decision to forgo the risky surgery. Speaking about her decision, Hannah said:

I've been in the hospital too much — I've had too much trauma. I don't want this, and it's my choice not to have it. . . . I just decided there were too many risks, and even if I took it there might be a bad outcome. There is a chance that I may be OK, and there's a chance that I may not be as well as I could be, but I'm willing to take that chance.

Hannah has already undergone almost 12 surgeries, and the current operation could require her to take medications for the rest of her life that have serious side effects. To find out when UK doctors would turn to the courts, read more.

When doctors, parents, and the patient cannot agree whether or not to go forward with a life-prolonging treatment, the courts usually decide. But since they all seem to honor Hannah's wishes, that won't be necessary. Do you think a 13-year old should be able to refuse a surgery, or should the law force her to undergo the transplant if it will save her life?

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