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Medicine and Public Policy |

The Case of Claire Conroy: Will Administrative Review Safeguard Incompetent Patients?

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Grant support: in part by a grant from the James Picker Foundation.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Bernard Lo, M.D.; Room A 405, University of California, San Francisco, 400 Parnassus Avenue; San Francisco, CA 94143.

San Francisco, California

© 1986 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1986;104(6):869-873. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-104-6-869
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The emotional issue of withdrawing feeding tubes from incompetent patients was reviewed recently by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case of Claire Conroy. The court ruled that artificial feedings do not differ from other life-sustaining treatments and may be withdrawn or withheld if they are against the patient's wishes or best interests. The ruling rejected the tradition of shared decision making by physicians and families of incompetent patients. Instead, the court required the State Ombudsman to investigate cases like that of Claire Conroy as possible cases of elder abuse. Although such review was intended to safeguard vulnerable patients, it may have detrimental effects and impede humane decisions to withhold care. To minimize cumbersome decision-making procedures, physicians should discuss life-sustaining treatment in advance with patients who are still competent. Such discussions should be more specific than is now customary.





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