In re Quinlan

In re Quinlan
Court New Jersey Supreme Court
Full case name In the matter of Karen Quinlan, an alleged incompetent
Decided March 31, 1976
Citation(s) 70 N.J. 10; 355 A.2d 647 (1976)
Case opinions
Majority: Hughes (unanimous)
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford and Schreiber and Judge Conford

In re Quinlan (70 N.J. 10, 355 A.2d 647 (NJ 1976)) was a landmark[1] 1975 court case in the United States in which the parents of a woman who was kept alive by artificial means were allowed to order her removal from artificial ventilation.[2][3]

Karen Ann Quinlan

Quinlan's high school graduation photo in 1972
Main article: Karen Ann Quinlan

Karen Ann Quinlan was 21 years old in 1975. After a night of drinking alcohol and ingesting tranquilizers, Quinlan passed out and ceased breathing for two 15-minute periods. After it was determined that she was in a persistent vegetative state, her father wished to remove her from the medical ventilator. Quinlan's primary physician and the hospital both refused.

Legal case

Quinlan's father retained Paul W. Armstrong as counsel and filed suit in the New Jersey Superior Court in Morris County, New Jersey, on September 12, 1975, [4] to be appointed as Quinlan's legal guardian so that he could act on her behalf. Armstrong would later become involved in the Nancy Cruzan case and later still become a judge.[5]

The Court denied his request on November 10, 1975. [6] Mr. Quinlan appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which on March 31, 1976, held that he could authorize the cessation of ventilation; and the hospital was bound to proceed with this order.


After being removed from the ventilator, Quinlan continued to breathe until her death, in 1986, from pneumonia.

The autopsy of Quinlan's brain found extensive damage to the bilateral thalamus.[7]


External links

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