Analyze ethical and legal implications of cases involving bioethics. Two examples of highly publicized cases are listed below.
The national discussion concerning decision making for incompetent patients began with the 1976 case of Karen Ann Quinlan. Because she had been left in a persistent vegetative state after two periods of anoxia, her parents sought court authorization to remove her from a ventilator. The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a landmark, unanimous decision, authorized the removal based on Quinlan’s constitutional right of privacy, which the court concluded would be lost unless her parents were given authority to exercise it on her behalf. In the 15 years since Quinlan, courts in almost 20 states have reviewed disputes regarding treatment for incompetent patients. Courts in all these states have recognized the general right of competent people to refuse treatment, and in all but two states have also ultimately found that the U.S. Constitution, state constitution, or common law permits a surrogate to make treatment decisions on behalf of an incompetent person (Annas, 1990).
The case of Nancy Cruzan is essentially identical to that of Karen Ann Quinlan, with one exception: Nancy Cruzan, a young woman in a persistent vegetative state because of a 1983 automobile accident, requires only tube feeding (rather than a ventilator and tube feeding) to continue to survive. Her parents firmly believe she would not want to have tube feeding continued under such circumstances, in part based on her own statement that she would not want to continue to live if she could not be “at least halfway normal.” For this reason, a trial judge authorized her parents to have their daughter’s tube feeding discontinued (Annas, 1990).
Select a case for which you are familiar or have an interest that involves medical ethics. Prepare a case analysis using the IRAC method. Your analysis should address the following:
- Annas, George J, J.D., M.P.H. (1990). Sounding board: Nancy cruzan and the right to die. The New England Journal of Medicine, 323(10), 670-673.