UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Angina Pectoris; Comprehension; Decision Making; Depression; Humans; Informed Consent; Mental Competency; Mentally Ill Persons; Patients; Schizophrenia; Treatment Refusal; United States




A young woman twenty-six weeks pregnant and dying from cancer lies heavily sedated and attached to a respirator. Is she competent to determine what life-prolonging measures should be taken, or to consent to an emergency cesarean section that may save her fetus but will probably shorten her life? A quadriplegic young man wishes to end his life and requests a court order granting immunity for the medical staff who will unhook his respirator and administer sedatives. Is he competent to choose to die? A person's competence will have implications for whether he or she is allowed to decide what type of treatment, if any, is received; whether treatment is discontinued, including life-sustaining treatment; and whether medical professionals implementing decisions are exposed to civil or criminal liability.


Berg, Jessica Wilen, Constructing Competence: Formulating Standards of Legal Competence to Make Medical Decisions (1996). Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 2, 1996. Available at SSRN:

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Rutgers law review

PubMed ID


Included in

Psychiatry Commons