Jill Advises Seneca Against Taking Nell Off Life Support
(February 1976)

(Seneca is in his office looking at an x-ray when there is a knock on the door.)

SENECA: Come in.

JILL: (entering) Dr. Beaulac?


JILL: My father suggested that I get in touch with you. Well, I think that he hoped that I might be helpful with some of the legal questions involving your wife's condition? I'm sorry I couldn't stop by earlier, but I saw your light on just now and, well, I wondered, maybe this might be a good time. If you're interested, that is.

SENECA: Mmm-hmm.

JILL: (turning to leave) Look, uh, I'm sorry, perhaps this is a bad time.

SENECA: No, no, please, I'm sorry. (motions for her to sit) Sit down.

JILL: I know how much I dislike unsolicited advice.

SENECA: Well, please, sit, you tell me whatever you think it is I should know.

JILL: (sitting) Look, I realize that your wife's condition must be a constant source of pain for you, and I'm sure that you'd like to see her released from it.

SENECA: I was just looking at the angiograms. I never should have operated.

JILL: Well, I think everybody understands why you did, an impulse to try and help. Unfortunately, because everybody's been aware of Nell's condition from the start, I'm afraid that whatever you do from now on is gonna attract a lot of attention.

SENECA: Everybody's gonna be waiting to see what I'm going to do.

JILL: I mean that there's no chance of taking your wife off life support without facing legal consequences.

SENECA: And those are?

JILL: Look, I...I'd like you to understand one thing: I'm not defending the law, I'm just...I'm merely stating its provisions.

SENECA: Mmm-hmm. Go on.

JILL: Anyone that takes Nell off that respirator now is almost certain to be charged with homicide, or possibly some lesser included offense. And I think a conviction would be inevitable, regardless of the circumstances. Needless to say, that would mean prison, and in your particular case it would also mean the loss of your license to practice medicine, the profession to which you've devoted your life.

SENECA: It was my mistake that put Nell on that respirator in the first place...

JILL: But I'm afraid, even if that's so...

SENECA: Are you telling me that a doctor cannot remedy his own mistake?

JILL: (nodding) Yeah, I'm afraid that's exactly what I'm telling you.

SENECA: (turning away) Suppose I make myself the physician of record? Am I allowed by law to remove the respirator as unnecessary from a medical standpoint?

JILL: Unfortunately, you're not.

SENECA: In other words, the law is telling me how to practice medicine?

JILL: (nodding) Yeah, I'm afraid it is.

SENECA: Where was the law when Nell was in the emergency room with a vein bleeding inside of her head? Hmm? Where was the statute that said, "This woman will not live. You will not let this woman go on"? Hmm?

SENECA: How 'bout it, Ms. Coleridge? (sitting down) Where was the law when we had her in the operating room? And why wasn't there a judge in the recovery room when she stopped breathing, to order me not to put her on a respirator? Where was the law then, Ms. Coleridge?

JILL: I'm sorry. I really wish that I could be more helpful.

SENECA: Oh you have been. You've told me that the law requires that my wife remain in a state of permanent vegetation, dying by inches over years and years.

JILL: Is that what will happen?

SENECA: Yes. That's the one thing that Nell dreaded and I assured her that nothing like that would ever happen.

JILL: I'm sorry.

SENECA: Well, does the law care about what Nell wants? Does that matter at all? Hmm?

JILL: Dr. Beaulac...


JILL: If you look at any of the traditional drawings of the Justice, you'll see that she's usually portrayed as blind, and I'm really sorry. But I'm afraid in this particular instance, the law does not recognize your wife's wishes in the matter.

SENECA: (nods) I'm sorry. I shouldn't have taken out my frustrations on you.

JILL: Listen, I'm not concerned about that. What does concern me, and what I really want to be sure is, that you understand all the legal consequences that you'll have to face if you do anything to remove life support from Nell.

SENECA: (nods) Thank you for that. But I'm not sure that consequences, for me, are the primary consideration right now.

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