Karen Ann Quinlan

Facts about Karen Quinlan

Karen Ann Quinlan died at 31 years old
Born: March 29, 1954
Best known as: Controversial coma patient of the 1970s


Karen Ann Quinlan Biography

Karen Ann Quinlan was the first modern icon of the right-to-die debate. She spent a decade living in a brain-damaged state from 1975 until her death in 1985.

Karen Ann Quinlan was only 21 years old when she collapsed at a party after swallowing alcohol and the tranquilizer Valium on 14 April 1975. She was rushed to a hospital where doctors saved her life, but she suffered brain damage and lapsed into a “persistent vegetative state.” Her family waged a much-publicized legal battle for the right to remove her life-support machinery, finally winning that right after a 7-0 decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court on March 31, 1976

In a final twist, Quinlan kept breathing after the respirator was unplugged. She was moved to a New Jersey nursing home, where she remained in a coma for the next nine years until her 1985 death.

Extra credit

Karen Ann Quinlan’s case is often compared to that of accident victim Nancy Cruzan and “Terri’s Law” subject Terri Schiavo… The 1977 TV movie In the Matter of Karen Ann Quinlan was based on Quinlan’s case.


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