Oakland — The Alameda County Superior Court has released its final judgment in CANHR v. Chapman, ending the practice of nursing homes that make decisions – including whether to give mind-altering drugs and withdraw life-sustaining treatment – on behalf of “unrepresented” residents. The judgment prohibits the use of Health and Safety Code Section 1418.8, a 24 year old statute permitting nursing home staff members to make health care decisions for residents who lack capacity to make their own decisions and do not have a substitute decisionmaker.
The court’s ruling follows its June 2015 decision that Section 1418.8 was unconstitutional because it lacks any requirements that nursing home residents be told critical decisions are being made for them. The court’s final judgment states “the use of Health and Safety Code section 1418.8 is prohibited” because it does not require residents be adequately notified in writing. The judgment also holds that section 1418.8 is prohibited for the administration of antipsychotic drugs and for withdrawing or withholding end-of-life care.
Mort Cohen, professor of law at Golden Gate University in San Francisco and attorney for CANHR in the case, stated “section 1418.8 impermissibly gave too much unchecked authority to nursing homes to control the lives and deaths of their most vulnerable residents. This judgment ensures that health care decisions will be made by residents themselves unless a court is convinced they can’t.”
“The time for having an honest policy discussion about how health care decisions are made for people without capacity and surrogates is long overdue” said Anthony Chicotel, staff attorney for CANHR. “Hopefully the recent judgment gives California the impetus to start that discussion, especially since the number of unrepresented residents is growing exponentially as the population ages.”
To read the court judgement, CLICK HERE (PDF).