McKay v. Bergstedt
Nevada Supreme Court
801 P.2d 617 (1990)
Kenneth Bergstedt (plaintiff) became a quadriplegic at age 10. Kenneth’s main caregiver was his father. Kenneth was kept alive by a respirator and could read, watch television, operate a computer using voice commands, and occasionally move in a wheelchair. When Kenneth was about 31, his father became terminally ill. Kenneth did not wish to live without the support of his father, fearing that if something happened to his ventilator when no one was present, he would die in agony. Kenneth thus petitioned a district court to have someone administer a sedative and remove the respirator, which would end Kenneth’s life. The petition requested the court to provide an order of immunity from criminal or civil liability for those assisting with Kenneth’s death and for a declaration absolving Kenneth of suicide. A neurosurgeon determined that Kenneth’s quadriplegia was irreversible. Kenneth’s father reluctantly agreed with Kenneth’s petition. The district court found that Kenneth was a mentally competent adult fully capable of making a decision about the removal of life support. On appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, the Nevada attorney general, D. Brian McKay (defendant), opposed the petition but informed the court that the opposition was token and that the state agreed with the petition. However, the attorney general argued that the state had a general interest in preserving life and an interest in preventing suicide.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Steffen, J.)
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