Karen Ann Quinlan

1 January 2017

Soon, a very private Quinlans found themselves at the center of public court case that drew national attention. Superior Court rejected their initial petition for getting Karen off life support. However, they persisted and presented their case to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Finally, on March 31, 1976, Joe Quinlan was appointed as the personal guardian of his daughter Karen, and was given the right to discontinue her life support. After long negotiations between Quinlans family and hospital staff, Karen Ann was taken off the life support.

To everyone’s surprise, she continued breathing on her own. Karen Ann was relocated to Morris View Nursing Home in June 1976 where she lived for another nine years before dying on June 11, 1985 from pneumonia. Julia Quinlan recalled how hard it was for her to watch her daughter slowly die for 10 years. The case of Karen Ann Quinlan became extremely public. During time of her coma, there was a movie made and a few books written.

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Karen Ann became a “Right-to-die heroine”, and was more of a symbol than a substance.

Karen Ann Quinlan’s case changed the way many people looked at life and death and what is considered a livable life and dignified death. 1 “Living wills” concept or advanced derivative started after that case. The ruling that was made by New Jersey Supreme Court led to the requirement for all the healthcare facilities to have ethics committees. Five years after Karen Ann fallen into coma, Quinlans opened the Karen Ann Quinlan hospice in Newton. 3 This hospice helps not only terminally ill patients but also their families in the last 6 months of life.

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