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

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Document Type


Place of Original Publication

Rutgers Law Review


48 Rutgers Law Review 345 (1996)


COinS Jessica Wilen Berg Faculty Bio