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Karen Ann Quinlan Case Study Summary

Karen Ann Quinlan Case Analysis

Karen Ann Quinlan Case

Good medical ethics begin with appropriate clinical medicine. The battle concerning life and death of Karen is one of the medical ethics cases that have caught public’s attention. Her case required her parents to make a moral judgment concerning the decision to withdraw or maintain a life-supporting machine. Karen’s condition was described as a coma and later determined to be a persistent vegetative state. Her parents requested the doctors to remove the ventilator to allow her to die but the doctors refused by citing medical ethics. Doctors have an inherent duty to protect life and any attempt to remove life-supporting machine was equivalent to murder.

Karen’s wishes about the end of life were not known. Her wishes were dependant on the parents since they are the ones who requested for the removal of the mechanical ventilator. The patient wishes were not known because she was in an incapacitated state. In this case, the court found Karen’s parents as the adequate surrogates.

When Karen’s case was presented in the New Jersey Supreme Court, the judges supported the decision of her parents to remove the mechanical ventilator. The decision of the judges was based on the right to privacy. Furthermore, Karen’s parents were the only adequate surrogates since Karen was considered an incapacitated patient. She could not make her wishes known. The courts also recognized the quality of life as a legitimate factor which should be considered on matters of life and death in clinical medicine. The judges also considered the role of the physicians in preserving lives. However, they also noted that the doctors have a right to refuse to put the patient on the life-supporting machine. The judges expressed their judicial ruling by considering their values. They used the value of intellect over human existence in expressing the judicial ruling. The judges at the New Jersey Supreme Court also argued their case to favor judicial restraint. They noted that such a case does not belong in court. As such, they proposed for the formation of prognosis committee to decide the case. Today, the prognosis committees are known as the clinical ethics committee.

In the final ruling, the judges refused to remove the life supporting machine citing a violation of homicide statutes. When the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, the judgment was dispensed on constitutional arguments by citing unusual treatment and freedom of religion. The judges believed that the case was medical one and required medical ethics in making the final decision. The ethical issues concerning the case included permissibility to allow the doctors to remove the life supporting machine. In making medical treatment decisions, it is essential to understand the appropriate clinical medicine policies. In this case, the doctors believed it was unethical to remove the life supporting machine since it was equivalent to homicide.

Karen Ann Quinlan case allowed for the development of clinical ethics committee to oversee issue concerning clinical medicine which is considered not to belong in court. When the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, the judges allowed for the removal of the life of the life-supporting machine. The California Death Act was also enacted in 1977 which specified the right to refuse life-supporting therapies. However, the law protected the physicians from being sued in case the patient dies by failing to provide treatment. In conclusion, Karen Quinlan case has allowed people to understand the legal and ethical issues surrounding life and death.

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