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November 20, 1987

The Legal Status of Consent to Withhold Treatment

Author Affiliations

Society for the Right to Die New York

Society for the Right to Die New York

JAMA. 1987;258(19):2696-2697. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400190078024

To the Editor.—  We read with interest Judith Areen's1 excellent article concerning the rights of family members to make decisions to forgo treatment on behalf of incompetent adult patients. Recent important developments in courts and legislatures deserve to be brought to your readers' attention.Just prior to publication of Ms Areen's article, on June 24, 1987, the New Jersey Supreme Court—the first to rule on a right-to-die case (Quinlan 19762)— expanded on the family's authority to make treatment-termination decisions without going to court.3 In In re Jobes, the court held that decisions about a patient's life-sustaining medical treatment are usually best made (when the patient cannot and has not made them) by family members or close friends designated by the patient. "Almost invariably," the court wrote, "the patient's family has an intimate understanding of the patient's medical attitudes and general world view and therefore is in