Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD. - Leviticus 19:32

The Case of Baby Jane Doe


Oct. 11, 1983 - Baby Jane Doe is born at University Hospital at Stony Brook, New York. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services receives a hotline complaint that Baby Jane Doe may be a victim of denial of medically beneficial care for her spina-bifida (an opening in the spinal column).

Oct. 1983 - The first physician who examines Baby Jane Doe recommends surgery. The first judge who hears the evidence orders surgery. Her parents refuse to consent and receive court approval to pursue custodial care only. During the ensuing court battle, Baby Jane Doe undergoes surgery, which will allow her to talk, laugh, and attend school in a wheelchair in the future.

Nov.17, 1983 - HHS, denied access to the medical records by University Hospital, is forced to commence legal action to obtain the medical records for Baby Jane Doe and is denied the records by the Federal District Court.

Feb. 23, 1984 - A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals, rules 2-1 that the government may not have access to the medical records of Baby Jane Doe, saying that Congress had not intended Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to apply to cases involving denial of medical treatment to handicapped newborns.

May 8, 1984 - The Justice Department files a request with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals asking the entire 12-member court to rehear the government’s Baby Jane Doe case.

Mar. 13, 1984 - The American Medical Association and five other medical groups file suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to invalidate the Administration’s new Baby Doe regulation on the basis of the 2nd Circuit decision, claiming that efforts to investigate "alleged discrimination in treatment decisions involving impaired new born infants" are contrary to congressional intent. The judge delays ruling on the regulation, but issues a verbal warning against enforcement of the regulation in the meantime. ( AHA & AMA v. Heckler)

May 17, 1984 - The Second Circuit Court of Appeals denies the Justice Department’s request for rehearing the Baby Jane Doe case.

May 23, 1984 - U.S. District Court Southern District of New York grants summary judgment in AHA & AMA v. Heckler invalidating the Administration’s Baby Doe regulation saying that they were promulgated without statutory authority.

June 11, 1984 - The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issues its final injunction order against the Baby Doe regulation, declaring it "invalid and unlawful" and halting any further implementation of the regulation, including any investigation of charges of medical neglect of handicapped newborns.

July 26, 1984 - The Baby Doe provisions of the Child Abuse Amendments of 1984 pass the U.S. Senate by a voice vote.

Aug. 17, 1984 - The Justice Department decides to drop efforts to obtain medical records of Baby Jane Doe, but appeals injunction against Baby Doe regulation to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. (AHA & AMA v. Heckler)

Oct. 9, 1984 - President Reagan signs the Child Abuse Amendments of 1984, making it illegal for doctors to withhold nourishment or medically indicated treatments unless the infant is comatose, the treatment will promote its death or is "futile in terms of the survival of the infant."

Dec. 10, 1984 - In order to implement the Baby Doe provisions of the Child Abuse Amendments of 1984, HHS publishes a proposed regulation which closely follows the expressed intent of Congress. Receipt of federal funds for child abuse programs will be dependent on the states assuring that denial of ordinary medical treatment for handicapped babies will be treated as a form of child abuse or neglect and responded to accordingly with legal remedies.


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