Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bouvia v. Superior Court case brief

Bouvia v. Superior Court case brief summary
179 Cal. App 3d 1127 (1986)

After respondent, Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), denied her a preliminary injunction, petitioner, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, seeking the removal from her body of a nasogastric tube inserted and maintained against her will and without her consent by physicians who so placed it for the purpose of keeping her alive through involuntary forced feeding.


Petitioner was a young woman severely crippled by the effects of cerebral palsy, which rendered her bedridden, in constant pain, and unable to care for herself in any capacity. She was mentally competent and expressed her desire to die. Real parties in interest, the hospital medical staff, inserted a feeding tube in petitioner against her will because her weight loss from starvation reached a life threatening level. Petitioner sought removal of the tube claiming it was unnecessary. The trial court denied her injunctive and declaratory relief. Petitioner appealed that decision.


  • The court found that in addition to all the other supporting cases and legislative pronouncements, that both the state and federal constitutions vested a fundamental right in patients to refuse such treatment. 
  • The real parties in interest contended that the interest of the state should prevail over that of petitioner's rights. 
  • The court rejected that argument because petitioner's quality of life should have been considered in addition to the consequences of prolonging of that life. 
  • The trial court erred when it based its decision on petitioner's motives for refusal because that examination was not required.

The court issued a peremptory writ of mandate for the trial court to make and enter a new and different order granting petitioner's request for a preliminary injunction and the relief prayed for holding that her right to refuse medical treatment, even of the life-sustaining variety, entitled her to the immediate removal of the nasogastric tube that had been involuntarily inserted into her body.

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