Tuesday, March 8, 2011


From the Washington Post:
The Montana Supreme Court has delayed an order that a cancer patient undergo a hysterectomy to give her time to appeal a finding that she is not mentally competent to make such a decision.

District Judge Karen Townsend issued a March 1 ruling ordering the woman to undergo a radical hysterectomy on March 3 to treat her cervical cancer. The woman is identified in documents by the initials L.K.

L.K.'s appeal says she is a deeply religious woman who wants children and that she objected to the hysterectomy on both grounds, the Missoulian reported Sunday.

After L.K.'s cancer diagnosis, Dr. Valerie Knutsen sent a letter to the Missoula County attorney's office in September with concerns about L.K.'s ability to make medical decisions. A nurse sent similar letters in September and October. A petition to appoint a temporary medical guardian was filed in November. On Feb. 11, the temporary medical guardian signed a consent form for L.K. to have the radical hysterectomy. The surgery was scheduled for March 3.

The Supreme Court stayed Townsend's order and agreed to expedite the appeal.

Ever since I read the article in the local paper this morning, I've been thinking about LK's situation off and on. She is Stage 1, and she could probably be cured and live for many more years. And yet, and yet.... Unless upon further examination, LK is shown to be incapacitated by mental illness beyond the decision not to have surgery, I lean toward her being permitted to make the choice. I believe that LK is wrong to refuse the surgery, but I do not believe the treatment should be forced upon her.

What do you think?


  1. Lapin, that's right. If it were her child, I'd say take the decision out of her hands, but for herself, no.

  2. Tricky one, but in the end, I think no one should be forced to have a hysterectomy.

  3. Insuffient data.

    I tend to give leeway to courts, when they medically intervene over&against religious nutcase parents (denying treatments to their minor child).

    But I don't have a good idea of this woman's competency.

  4. JCF, I said clearly that if it were her child, the matter should be taken out of the woman's hands.

    You're right. We don't know enough. Still, the thought of forced surgery does not sit well with me. What about serious emotional damage to the woman from the surgery?

  5. Well, this will probably get me in trouble but, the choice is hers and should not be taken from her.

  6. Fred, not with me. Unless L.K is incompetent due to mental illness, then it's her choice.

  7. I believe the state does not have the right to make this decision for L.K. As someone who had a radical hysterectomy at the age of 34 for endometrial cancer, I have been greatful for the thirty years of life (and still going) that it has given me. One can have a good, happy life after the surgery, and I do understand. Like L.K., I would have liked to have had children.

    I believe she is making the wrong decision, but it is her decision to make.

  8. Her decision. Even if it's a fatal one.

    My uterus went out at 36. Haven't missed it,myself, but was my decision what to do with it.

  9. I'm amazed that it's legal to force her to have surgery she doesn't want.

  10. Erika, the legality of forcing surgery is what is in question here. I hope that on appeal, Judge Townsend's ruling is overturned.

  11. See, I think this is part of a bigger picture. This is Montana, folks, where legislation is pending which would force a woman who is having an abortion to have to watch it on a monitor in real time while her physician gives her the play-by-play of what s/he is doing.

    There is no doubt in my mind that this woman is sane. I highly suspect the doc who reported her concerns about LK's ability to make medical decisions to the Missoula County Attorney's office would be happy to comply with the proposed legislation about abortion.

    It's all about being "pro life" - which has come to mean taking away the decision-making power of women over their own bodies.

    Yes, I know. The doctor is a woman. But, when you work for 'da man', you do whatcha gotsta do.

    "Seamless garment" and all that.

    Would I have a radical hysterectomy at age 34 for Stage I cancer? Absolutely. That's not the question. The question is, "Does LK want a hysterectomy"? The answer, apparently, is no.

    What part of "no" don't they understand? Oh, right. That would be the part where it comes out of a woman's mouth.

    It's LK's life, anyway.


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