Born 1954, died 1985. She was the first figurehead in the right to die debate having the first highly publicized court case having to do with forgoing life sustaining treatment be centered around her situation.
Karen slipped into a coma at the age of 21 and after being in a persistent vegetative state for a year, Karen's parents formed the decision that Karen would have wanted to be removed from life support. When doctors refused to honor the Quinlans' wishes, the Quinlans took the hospital ethics committee to court claiming cruel and unusual punishment and their right to religious freedom, making Karen the focal point in the 1976 Supreme Court case "In The Matter of Karen Ann Quinlan". The court's decision to allow Karen to be removed from life sustaining treatment caused a bioethical and legal frontier in history,forcing Americans to debate and address the issue and appropriateness of deciding to forgo life sustaining treatment.