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State of Georgia v. McAfee

385 S.E.2d 651 (1989)

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State of Georgia v. McAfee

Georgia Supreme Court

385 S.E.2d 651 (1989)

Facts

A motorcycle accident in 1985 left Larry McAfee (plaintiff) a quadriplegic dependent on a respirator with no medical likelihood of improvement. McAfee remained a competent adult and wanted to turn off the respirator to end his life. McAfee discussed the matter with family members, who supported his decision. With an engineer’s help, McAfee devised a timer switch that would allow him to shut off his respirator himself. McAfee tried to disconnect the respirator, but the pain of not being able to breathe prevented him from succeeding. McAfee petitioned in county court to ask for a declaration allowing him to turn off his respirator and not have it restarted. McAfee also asked that a sedative be administered beforehand to relieve the pain and allow him to die peacefully and that the court declare whoever administered the sedative would not hold any liability. The county court granted McAfee’s petition, reasoning that his right to refuse medical treatment and to privacy and liberty under the federal and state constitutions outweighed any state interest in the proceeding. The court concluded that it could not order a sedative administered but that no civil or criminal liability would attach to the person who did so. The Georgia Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gregory, J.)

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