Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

In re Conroy

Supreme Court of New Jersey

March 19, 1984, Argued ; January 17, 1985, Decided



 [*335]  [**1216]   At issue here are the circumstances under which life-sustaining treatment may be withheld or withdrawn from incompetent, institutionalized, elderly patients with severe and permanent mental and physical impairments and a limited life expectancy.

Plaintiff, Thomas C. Whittemore, nephew and guardian of Claire Conroy, an incompetent, sought permission to remove a nasogastric feeding tube, the primary conduit for nutrients, from his ward, an eighty-four-year-old bedridden woman with serious and irreversible physical and mental impairments who resided in a nursing home. John J. DeLaney, Jr., Conroy's guardian ad litem, opposed the guardian's petition. The trial  [*336]  court granted the guardian permission to remove the tube, and the Appellate Division reversed.

In 1979 Claire Conroy, who was suffering from an organic brain syndrome that manifested itself in her exhibiting periodic confusion,  [***4]  was adjudicated an incompetent, and plaintiff, her nephew, was appointed her guardian. The guardian had Ms. Conroy placed in the Parkview Nursing Home, a small nursing facility with thirty beds. There she came under the care of Dr. Kazemi, a family practitioner, and Catherine Rittel, a registered nurse, who was the nursing home administrator. Upon her admission, Ms. Conroy, although confused, could converse and follow directions, was ambulatory, and was in relatively good physical condition. Thereafter, she became increasingly confused, disoriented, and physically dependent.

Ms. Conroy was hospitalized on two occasions at Clara Maas Hospital, once between July 23, 1979 and August 8, 1979, for dehydration and a urinary tract infection, and later between July 21, 1982 and November 17, 1982, for an elevated temperature and dehydration. During the latter hospitalization the diagnostic evaluation showed that Ms. Conroy had necrotic gangrenous ulcers on her left foot. Two orthopedic surgeons recommended that to save her life, her leg should be amputated. However, her nephew refused to consent to the surgery because he was confident that she would not have wanted it. Contrary to [***5]  the doctors' prognosis, Ms. Conroy did not die from the gangrene.

During this second hospitalization, Dr. Kazemi observed that Ms. Conroy was not eating adequately, and therefore, on July 23, he inserted a nasogastric tube that extended from her nose through her esophagus to her stomach. Medicines and food were then given to her through this tube. On October 18, the tube was removed, and Ms. Conroy was fed by hand through her mouth for two weeks. However, she was unable to eat a  [*337]  sufficient amount in this manner, and the tube was reinserted on November 3.

Read The Full CaseNot a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.

98 N.J. 321 *; 486 A.2d 1209 **; 1985 N.J. LEXIS 2221 ***; 48 A.L.R.4th 1


Prior History:  [***1]  On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 190 N.J. Super. 453 (1983).

In re Conroy, 190 N.J. Super. 453, 464 A.2d 303, 1983 N.J. Super. LEXIS 911 (N.J. Super. Ct., 1983)


patient, pain, incompetent, life-sustaining, nursing home, medical treatment, termination, elderly, residents, suffering, circumstances, withdraw, tube, Ethical, feeding, limited-objective, functioning, cases, withholding, rights, best interest, decisions, prolong, prognosis, withdrawn, disease, irreversible, pure-objective, artificial, appointed

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Healthcare Law, Medical Treatment, End-of-Life Decisions, Life Support, General Overview, Patient Consent, Informed Consent, Failures & Refusals to Treat, Lifesaving Treatment, Right to Refuse Treatment, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Medical Treatment, Public Health & Welfare Law, Social Services, Institutionalized Individuals, Confinement Conditions, Incompetent, Mentally Disabled & Minors, Parties, Intervention, Intervention of Right, Patient Confidentiality, Family Law, Parental Duties & Rights, Termination of Rights