Brief Fact Summary. Bouvia (Plaintiff), not terminally ill but forced to eat through intubation, made a request to stop the feeding.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Even if not terminally ill, a competent adult may refuse force-feeding done to sustain life.
A person of adult years and in sound mind has the right, in the exercise of control over his own body, to determine whether or not to submit to lawful medical treatment.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Even if not terminally ill, may a competent adult refuse force-feeding done to sustain life?
Held. (Beach, J.)Â Yes.Â Even if not terminally ill, a competent adult may refuse force-feeding done to sustain life.Â A competent adult has the right to refuse any kind of medical treatment, including force-feeding through tubes.Â Whether or not a person is terminally ill is not relevant to that person’s rights.Â A decision to reject medical treatment belongs to the patient alone, and is not to be second-guessed by judges or doctors.Â In this case, Plaintiff is clearly of sound mind, and her desire to stop treatment must be respected.Â Writ issued.
Discussion. The court’s position on this issue is so well accepted by now that it is no longer controversial.Â The concurrence’s point of view however, is something else.Â Medically assisted suicide has generated much controversy, as shown by the events in 1992 surrounding Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan pathologist who assisted several people who wished to die.Â He was prosecuted, but the charges were dismissed when the court found that he broke no law.Â The Michigan legislature responded by passing a law criminalizing assisted suicide as of April 1993.Â Alternately, the Netherlands passed a euthanasia law about the same time permitting physician-assisted death under strict controls.