147 Cal.App.3d 1006 (1983) 195 Cal. Rptr. 484
-A patient is in a vegetative state.
-The doctors remove life support at the request of the family, including nourishment.
-The patient dies as a result.
-The doctors are charged with murder for actively killing the patient
-Doctors are charged with murder for removing life support, including nourishment from a patient in a vegetative state. Doctors appeal ruling that removing life support or nourishment is murder.
Is removing life support an act (chargeable as murder) or an omission (not chargeable if the doctors did not have a legal duty to act)?
-Removal of life support is an omission and thus not a chargeable offense as long as the doctors had no legal duty to act. The doctors did not have a legal duty to act in this situation.
Removing a mechanical device is comparable to stopping treatment that could be done manually. Thus, there is no duty for a doctor to continue treatment once it has become ineffective.
-Court decides two issues: 1) Removing life support is not an affirmative act, but an omission of further treatment (even though self-propelled); and 2) Doctor has no legal duty to continue treatment after it is futile, although they do have a duty to try to keep a patient alive initially.
Case dismissed. No crime has been committed.