The Right-To-Die Movement
On this date in 1985, 31-year-old Karen Ann Quinlan, often called the first poster child for the modern right-to-die movement, died in a Morris Plains, N.J., nursing home. Ten years earlier, Quinlan had collapsed after swallowing tranquilizers and alcohol at a party. She stopped breathing at least twice, each episode lasting 15 minutes. Physicians saved her life but her brain suffered irreversible damage. Doctors told her family that she had descended into a persistent vegetative state. The hospital gradually weaned her from the respirator but, against the familys wishes, kept in a feeding tube for nourishment and hydration. Quinlan stayed alive, breathing on her own, for eight more years while her family fought via the legal system to remove all life support. Eventually, the New Jersey Supreme Court sided with the Quinlans about removing the respirator (which already had been taken out years earlier).
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