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In re Conroy

    Brief Fact Summary. Conroy, who was competent but is now incompetent and in pain, sought through her representative (Plaintiff) to have life support withdrawn.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Life-sustaining treatment may be withheld or withdrawn from an incompetent patient when it is known that the particular patient would have refused the treatment under the circumstances involved.

    Facts. Conroy, who was competent but is now incompetent and in pain, sought through her representative (Plaintiff) to have life support withdrawn.

    Issue. May life-sustaining treatment be withheld or withdrawn from an incompetent patient when it is known that the particular patient would have refused the treatment under the circumstances involved?

    Held. (Schreiber, J.)  Yes.  Life-sustaining treatment may be withheld or withdrawn from an incompetent patient when it is known that the particular patient would have refused the treatment under the circumstances involved.  Under the “limited-objective” test, support may be removed if (1) there is reasonable trustworthy evidence that this is what the incompetent person would have wanted and (2) it is clear that the benefits of life are outweighed by the burdens of treatment.  Under another test, the “pure-objective” approach, if the burdens clearly and markedly outweigh the benefits of life, life support may be removed without evidence that this would be the incompetent person’s wishes.

    Discussion. The objective tests are to be used when the wishes of the incompetent person cannot be clearly known.  When they can be, a subjective test is used.  Basically, the decision made while the person was competent will control.


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