California Court of Appeal, Second District
179 Cal. App 3d 1127 (1986)
Elizabeth Bouvia (plaintiff), 28, was a quadriplegic and suffered from severe cerebral palsy. She was bedridden, in continuous pain, and was unable to move except for some slight movement in her fingers and face. She relied on public assistance for medical and other care. On several occasions, Bouvia expressed a desire to die, including an intention to starve herself. While a patient at a Los Angeles County hospital, physicians determined that Bouvia was not consuming enough nutrients and losing significant weight. Her weight hovered around 70 pounds and the medical staff believed her weight loss to be a life-threatening condition. Against her expressed wishes, and against her will, physicians and staff inserted a nasogastric feeding tube into Bouvia to provide nutrition. Thereafter, Bouvia filed a petition to have the feeding tube removed. At a bench trial, the county hospital, its physicians and administrators (collectively, defendants) argued that the state’s interest in preserving Bouvia’s life outweighed her desire to refuse life-saving treatment. They also argued that she is not terminally ill or in an otherwise incurable medical state—conditions which may allow for the discontinuation of live-saving treatment. By removing the feeding tube, Bouvia would essentially be committing suicide via starvation, and the public hospital could not assist her in that course of action. The trial court agreed with the hospital’s medical staff and found Bouvia’s weight loss to be a life-threatening condition. In reaching its decision, the trial court placed significant weight on the amount of time Bouvia could live with sufficient feeding—an additional 15 to 20 years—as well as her motives behind wanting the tube removed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Beach, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 204,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,000 briefs, keyed to 188 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.