(mĕdʺĭ-kō-kī-rŭrʹjĭ-kăl) [L. medicus, medical, + Gr. cheir, hand, + ergon, work] Concerning both medicine and surgery.
(mĕdʺĭ-kō-lēʹgăl) [ʺ + legalis, legal] Relating to medical jurisprudence or forensic medicine. SEE: table.
Seminal Medicolegal Court Decisions in the U.S.
|Case ||Legal Issue Involved ||Summary |
|Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health  ||End-of-life care; role of surrogate decision makers ||After a motor vehicle accident left Nancy Cruzan in a persistent vegetative state, her parents asked that life support be withdrawn on the basis of statements she had made to a friend approx. a year prior to her accident. The Supreme Court ruled that a higher standard of evidence for the withdrawal of life support was required (“clear and convincing evidence”) because it could not guarantee that family members would always act in the patient’s best interests. |
|Diamond v. Chakra-barty  ||Limits of genetic engineering ||Patents issued on man-made or genetically engineered microorganisms are legally valid. |
|Gonzalez v. Oregon  ||Do terminally ill patients have a right to “physician-assisted suicide”? ||The Supreme Court ruled that Oregon’s “Death With Dignity” Law was constitutional and did not constitute a violation of Federal Laws limiting the use of Controlled Substances to those instances where the drugs would cure or ameliorate disease. |
|Jacobson v. the Commonwealth of Massachusetts  ||Can the State mandate the use of vaccines? ||Mr. Jacobson challenged the scientific basis of vaccination and refused inoculation against smallpox. The Supreme Court ruled that ‘restraints and burdens [… can be imposed on individuals …] in order to secure the general comfort, health, and prosperity of the state.’ |
|Katskee v. Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS)  ||Contractual obligations of insurers ||Ms. Katskee, who had a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer, but no active cancer, requested reimbursement from BC/BS for prophylactic surgery. BC/BS denied coverage; but the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that in this particular instance it was warranted. |
|O’Connor v. Donaldson  ||Rights of the mentally ill ||Mr. Donaldson, a paranoid schizophrenic, was held in a Florida state institution for the insane for 15 years because of an inability to care for himself. The Supreme Court ruled he could not be confined unless he posed a threat either to his own life or to the life of other individuals. |
|In re Quinlan  ||End-of-life care; withdrawal of life support ||The parents of Karen Ann Quinlan petitioned the courts for the right to withdraw life support (mechanical ventilation and artificial respiration) from Ms. Quinlan, who was in a vegetative state after an overdose and motor vehicle accident. The request was granted. [The patient survived for several years without ventilation.] |
|Roe v. Wade  ||Legality of abortion...|