In re Quinlan

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In re Quinlan
Seal of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.png
CourtNew Jersey Supreme Court
Full case nameIn the matter of Karen Quinlan, an alleged incompetent
DecidedMarch 31, 1976
Citation(s)70 N.J. 10; 355 A.2d 647 (1976)
Case opinions
Majority: Hughes (unanimous)
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingChief 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[edit]

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, Joseph Quinlan, wished to remove her from the medical ventilator. Quinlan's primary physician and the hospital both refused.

Legal case[edit]

Quinlan's father retained attorneys Paul W. Armstrong, a Morris County, New Jersey, Legal Aid attorney, and James M. Crowley, an associate at the New York City law firm of Shearman & Sterling with degrees in theology and Church law, 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] Crowley is, as of 2017, legal counsel and advisor to several Vatican-related entities.

The Court denied his request on November 10, 1975.[6] Joseph 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 that Saint Clare's Hospital was bound to proceed with this order.


After being removed from the ventilator, Quinlan continued to breathe until her death, in 1985, from pneumonia.[7]

The autopsy of Quinlan's brain found extensive damage to the bilateral thalamus.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-14. Retrieved 2009-08-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "In the Matter of Karen Ann Quinlan: 1975 – Accepted Standards Vs. Right To Die, Decision Is Appealed, Suggestions For Further Reading". Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  3. ^ " - CBSi". Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Couple Files Suit To End Life", Deseret News (Salt Lake City), September 13, 1975, p1
  5. ^ Hutchinson, Dave (20 May 2015). "Judge who fought landmark right-to-die cases leaves Somerset bench". Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Must Choose Life, Judge Says in Quinlan Decision", Milwaukee Journal, November 11, 1975, p8
  7. ^ McFadden, Robert (June 12, 1985). "Karen Ann Quinlan, 31, Dies; Focus of '76 Right to Die Case". New York Times.
  8. ^ Kinney, Hannah C.; Korein, Julius; Panigrahy, Ashok; Dikkes, Pieter; Goode, Robert (26 May 1994). "Neuropathological Findings in the Brain of Karen Ann Quinlan – The Role of the Thalamus in the Persistent Vegetative State". New England Journal of Medicine. 330 (21): 1469–1475. doi:10.1056/NEJM199405263302101. PMID 8164698.

External links[edit]