Shine v. Vega

Damage action challenging the forcible intubation of a woman in an emergency room. The woman, who sought limited treatment in the hospital’s emergency department after experiencing an asthma attack, consented only to brief oxygen intervention. Family members, who accompanied her, also agreed only to this intervention. When the ER doctor sought to medicate her, she fled from the hospital. The doctor ordered aides to chase her, detain her, restrain her, and forcibly intubate her, in order to prevent deterioration in her respiratory condition. She sued for negligence and a violation of her constitutional right to refuse treatment. After a lengthy trial, where the jury found that the ER doctor was not negligent in forcibly restraining and treating her, the Supreme Judicial Court held that a competent person has a right to refuse even life-saving treatment in an emergency room. The Court also found that if physicians believe the individual is not competent, they must first consult family members or health care proxies before administering involuntary, life-sustaining treatment.