Karen Ann Quinlan

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Karen Ann Quinlan (March 29, 1954 – June 11, 1985) was an important person in the history of the right to die controversy in the United States.

When she was 21, Quinlan became unconscious after arriving home from a party. She had consumed diazepam, dextropropoxyphene, and alcohol. After she collapsed and stopped breathing twice for 15 minutes or more, the paramedics arrived and took Karen Ann to the hospital, where she lapsed into a persistent vegetative state. After she was kept alive on a ventilator for several months without improvement, her parents requested the hospital discontinue active care and allow her to die. The hospital refused, and the subsequent legal battles made newspaper headlines and set significant precedents. The tribunal eventually ruled in her parents' favor.

Although Quinlan was removed from mechanical ventilation during 1976, she lived on in a persistent vegetative state for almost a decade until her death from pneumonia in 1985.

Quinlan's case continues to raise important questions in moral theology, bioethics, euthanasia, legal guardianship and civil rights. Her case has affected the practice of medicine and law around the world. Two significant outcomes of her case were the development of formal ethics committees in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices, and the development of advance health directives.[citation needed]


Early life

Karen Ann Quinlan was born on March 29, 1954, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to a young unmarried mother of Irish American ancestry. A few weeks later, she was adopted by Joseph and Julia Quinlan, devout Roman Catholics who lived in Landing, New Jersey. Julia and Joseph produced a daughter, Mary Ellen, in 1956, and a son, John, in 1957.[1]

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