Edward M. Joyce


Life-support, medical malpractice, living will


In December, 1984, New York's Governor Mario Cuomo appointed a twenty-three member commission to recommend ways for the New York State Legislature to respond to a vast range of issues concerning medicine and morality. One of the major issues the commission will examine is the medical and legal implications arising from doctors' withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment from terminally ill patients. This Note first examines how states other than New York have settled the question of withholding or withdrawing life-support treatment from dying patients by judicial decision or by statute. The Note then discusses recent New York decisions addressing this issue. Following a discussion of recent developments and legislative proposals, this Note recommends that the New York State Legislature adopt a "living will" statute which enunciates the procedures to be followed in withdrawing or withholding life-saving treatment from terminally ill patients. In addressing this issue, the legislature should take special notice of and seek to remedy the inadequacies of existing "living will" statutes so that current questions pertaining to artificial feeding and decision-making for incompetent patients are answered. Only then will doctors and hospitals be fully protected from civil and criminal liability resulting from the withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining medical treatment from terminally ill patients.



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