Karen Ann Quinlan

Medical Patient

Born: 29 March 1954
Died: 11 June 1985 (pneumonia)
Birthplace: Scranton, Pennsylvania
Best known as: Controversial coma patient of the 1970s
Karen Ann Quinlan was the first modern icon of the right-to-die debate. The 21-year-old Quinlan collapsed at a party after swallowing alcohol and the tranquilizer Valium on 14 April 1975. 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. They succeeded, but in a final twist, Quinlan kept breathing after the respirator was unplugged. She remained in a coma for almost 10 years in a New Jersey nursing home 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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