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Law and MedicineCurrent Legal Issues Volume 3$
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Michael Freeman and Andrew Lewis

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198299189

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299189.001.0001

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The Comatose Pregnant Woman: Abortion and the Substituted-Judgement Approach

The Comatose Pregnant Woman: Abortion and the Substituted-Judgement Approach

(p.526) (p.527) The Comatose Pregnant Woman: Abortion and the Substituted-Judgement Approach
Law and Medicine

Erwin Bernat

Oxford University Press

On 11 November 1997 the Austrian Supreme Court (OGH) had — for the first time — to answer the question whether abortion may be carried out lawfully if the pregnant woman is permanently incompetent to make her own decision. The case involved Christina, a woman in her twenties who was involved in a car accident. She suffered severe brain injuries and fell into a deep coma. After Christina received medical treatment in order to save her life, the physicians established that she was pregnant. Her medical prognosis was poor. What could be said with certainty was that she would always be too retarded mentally to take care of a child. On 21 October 1997 the guardianship court appointed Christina’s mother as her legal guardian. She, as her daughter’s proxy, then applied for judicial approval of the decision to let her daughter have an abortion. The OGH generally approved of the proxy decision to let Christina have an abortion. This chapter examines the legal framework of this case.

Keywords:   Austria, abortion law, pregnant women, legal framework

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