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5 - Commentary on Bouvia v. Superior Court

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2022

Seema Mohapatra
Affiliation:
SMU Dedman School of Law, Texas
Lindsay Wiley
Affiliation:
UCLA School of Law, California
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Summary

Bouvia v. Superior Court was a California decision from 1985 in which a twenty-eight-year-old quadriplegic woman sought to have a feeding tube removed and to refuse any further lifesaving measures. The original opinion held that a competent adult has the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment but its description of “the ignominy, embarrassment, humiliation and dehumanizing aspects created by her helplessness” prompts this chapter’s authors to question whether the original court supported Bouvia’s decision because of her right to choose or because the justices believed her life was not, in fact, worth living. Professor Barry Furrow proffers a poetic feminist rewrite focusing on the factors that were important to Bouvia, rather than her inability to perform the roles that concerned the original court. Furrow also considers whether recognizing an autonomy “right” in this case ignores the larger issue of lack of resources to support disabled people. Professor Joan Krause’s commentary illuminates the original court’s decision to focus on the principle of personal autonomy to resolve this dispute - and thus to ignore any broader public responsibilities to the disabled community.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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