Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice

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Julia Quinlan, mother of Karen, reflects on 40-year milestone

April 3, 2016

N.J. Supreme Court decision on March 31, 1976, changed course of global medical ethics

Published in the Daily Record, April 3, 2016

Forty years ago on March 31, a landmark New Jersey Supreme Court decision regarding a young woman from Roxbury altered the legal and ethical landscape of healthcare across the country and around the world. Her name was Karen Ann Quinlan, and her tragic circumstance led to the establishment of living will and other rights of hospital patients, including their legal “right to die.”

Quinlan, 21, lapsed into a coma in 1975, allegedly after mixing alcohol with a tranquilizing drug. Once her condition was considered irreversible, her devoutly Catholic parents, Joseph and Julia, asked her doctors at St. Clare’s Hospital to remove her from the respirator that was keeping her alive and put her fate “into God’s hands.”


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