Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court entered on December 27, 1985 at Nos. 3200 and 3201 Philadelphia, 1984, affirming the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas (Orphans Division) of Lehigh County on August 1 and 3, 1984, at File No. 1984-852.
Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Hutchinson, J., did not participate in the decision of this matter. Zappala, J., did not participate in the consideration or disposition of this matter.
This case comes before us on appeal from a Superior Court affirmation of two orders of the Orphans' Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, 502 A.2d 1271. Those orders appointed a temporary guardian of an unconscious patient for the purpose of consenting to the administration of blood transfusions. The issue before us is whether during the hearings for the appointment of a temporary guardian the hearing judge abused his discretion in failing to receive testimony from the patient's parents, fiancee, or his presiding minister, regarding the patient's religious beliefs.
In responding to this issue we must bear in mind the procedural context which generated it. What we are reviewing is the appropriateness of an order appointing a temporary guardian. The appointment of such a guardian is specifically authorized by statute, the relevant section of which provides as follows.
Notwithstanding the provision of section 5511 of this code (relating to petition and hearing), the court, upon petition and a hearing at which good cause is shown, may appoint a temporary guardian or guardians of the person or estate of a person alleged to be incompetent, when it appears that a failure to make such appointment will result in irreparable harm to the person or estate of the alleged incompetent. The provisions of section 5511 of this code shall be applicable to such proceedings, except that only such notice of the petition and hearing shall be required as shall appear to the court to be feasible in the circumstances, and need not be given at such times or to such persons as would be required by the provisions of section 5511 of this code in a proceeding for the appointment of a guardian. A temporary guardian so appointed for the person or estate of an alleged incompetent shall only have and be subject to such powers, duties and liabilities and serve for such time as the court shall direct in its decree.
20 Pa.C.S. § 5513.*fn1 A petition for the appointment of a guardian may be made by "any person interested in the alleged incompetent's welfare." 20 Pa.C.S. § 5511(a).*fn2 As is evident from section 5513 the requirements for a hearing for the appointment of a temporary guardian are limited:
only such notice of the petition and hearing shall be required as shall appear to the court to be feasible in the circumstances, and need not be given at such times or to such persons as would be required by the provisions Page 6} of section 5511 of their code in a proceeding for the appointment of a guardian.*fn3
20 Pa.C.S. § 5513 (emphasis added).
Regarding the criterion to be utilized in choosing a temporary guardian, the presiding judge must be convinced that the person chosen will be "interested in the alleged incompetent's welfare," 20 Pa.C.S. § 5511(a), and will act in the best interest of the incompetent. In re Voshake's Guardianship, 125 Pa. Super. 98, 189 A. 753 (1937). The ultimate selection of a guardian lies within the sound discretion of the hearing judge, and an appellate court will not reverse that decision except upon an abuse of that discretion. Heidtman Estate, 452 Pa. 441, 306 A.2d 878 (1973); Coulter Estate, 406 Pa. 402, 178 A.2d 742 (1962); Voshake's Guardianship, supra.
With these rules in mind we now turn to an examination of the facts of this case. The patient, Darrell Dorone, a twenty-two (22)*fn4 year old Jehovah's Witness, was seriously injured in an automobile accident in Warren County, New Jersey, on July 31, 1984. He was unconscious when he was taken to a nearby hospital. There his spleen was removed.*fn5
On August 1, 1984, he was transferred by helicopter to the Lehigh Valley Hospital Center (L.V.H.C.). His personal effects were left ...