In re: Shinde

Ensuring Courts Honor the Preferences of Incapacitated Patients

Amicus: Filed April 7, 2023

In January 2018, Vinit Shinde, a 45-year-old IT consultant living in Atlanta, Georgia, suffered a brain aneurysm resulting in a profound neurological injury. Since the incident Vinit has been unable to communicate, is completely dependent for all daily functions and has demonstrated only minimal cognitive activity. Improvement is not expected by his medical team.

Following the injury, his brother, Rajesh Shinde, was named as Vinit’s legal guardian.  After years of pursuing treatment without improvement, Rajesh decided to initiate hospice in December 2020, stating a belief this was what his brother would have wanted based on a conversation they shared at the time of their parent’s death. Vinit did not complete any advance care planning documents prior to his injury.

Several people disagreed with the decision, including staff at the nursing facility, an ombudsman for the state of Georgia and Vinit’s ex-wife, who was a regular visitor. Vinit’s ex-wife filed a lawsuit to have Rajesh removed as guardian. At the end of a six-day trial, the court ruled she would replace Rajesh in the guardianship role.

Compassion & Choices submitted an amicus brief to the Georgia Court of Appeals in In re: Shinde that did not take a position on whether the decision to withdraw life-sustaining treatment was correct. We did not take a position because we did not feel that the record had been sufficiently developed for us to know what Vinit would have wanted in this situation. Instead, we explained that when the decision to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from an incapacitated person is in front of a court, the court’s primary focus should be on uncovering what the incapacitated person would have wanted and that the process followed by the Georgia probate court in this case did not allow for that to happen. Our brief also advised the appellate court that the legal standards and processes that most effectively ensure an incapacitated person’s end-of-life wishes are followed should be adopted by the courts in future cases.

We thank our co-counsel at Alston & Bird for their invaluable assistance with this amicus brief.

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VICTORY: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the improved End-of-Life Options Act.

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