[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
December 8, 1975

The Karen Ann Quinlan Case

Author Affiliations

Kennedy Institute Center for Bioethics Washington, DC

JAMA. 1975;234(10):1057. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03260230057027

The medical profession should be terrified at the possibilities hidden in the happenings in Morristown, NJ. The Karen Ann Quinlan case does not, as such, raise problems unfamiliar to the physician. For some years, physicians— though perhaps not all, or even as many as some would like—have been refusing to inflict artificial life-supports on irretrievably dying patients. Two principles are crucial to the ethos of the medical profession and are imprinted deep in the hearts of individual physicians. First, their task is to heal and cure, whenever possible. Second, when a cure is no longer possible, they are to care for and comfort the dying. Members of the medical profession, understandably and laudably, resist—and sometimes even resent their inability always to cure; they, like all of us, recoil when they see that death is to be the victor. Like all of us, the physician has much to learn about companying