A young woman twenty-six weeks pregnant and dying from cancer lies heavily sedated and attached to a respirator. Is she competent to determine what life-prolonging measures should be taken, or to consent to an emergency cesarean section that may save her fetus but will probably shorten her life? A quadriplegic young man wishes to end his life and requests a court order granting immunity for the medical staff who will unhook his respirator and administer sedatives. Is he competent to choose to die? A person's competence will have implications for whether he or she is allowed to decide what type of treatment, if any, is received; whether treatment is discontinued, including life-sustaining treatment; and whether medical professionals implementing decisions are exposed to civil or criminal liability.
Medical decisions, law of informed consent, autonomy, capacity, standard of competence
Place of Original Publication
Rutgers Law Review
Berg, Jessica Wilen, "Constructing Competence: Formulating Standards of Legal Competence to Make Medical Decisions" (2006). Faculty Publications. 562.