Quinlan case

The landmark legal case concerning the right of an incompetent person to refuse medical treatment, commonly referred to as the “right to die.” In 1975 Karen Quinlan, a 22-year-old who had sustained severe brain damage, perhaps as a result of consuming alcohol and drugs, became comatose and remained in a chronic vegetative state. A mechanical respirator was used to aid her breathing. Her parents requested termination of the life support systems, but the hospital and physicians refused. Ms. Quinlan’s father sought court approval to be appointed guardian of his daughter and to have the support systems discontinued. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of the father, permitting him to decline treatment on his daughter’s behalf. After Ms. Quinlan was removed from the respirator, she continued to receive antibiotics and was fed through a nasogastric tube. She continued to breathe on her own until her death in 1985.