Example 4: Mary Northern


Mary Northern refused to believe there was a real problem with her feet despite having visible gangrene

Mary C. Northern was a 72 year old from Tennessee (JUSTIA US Law, n.d.).  She was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. While in the hospital, she was found to have gangrene in both feet. The physicians were convinced that her life was in danger if her feet were not amputated (JUSTIA US Law, n.d.).  However, Mrs. Northern refused to believe that there was a serious problem. She stated that her feet were only dirty. Mrs. Northern refused to have her feet amputated. Tennessee Department of Human Services asked the courts to step in.

Upon evaluation, she had good memory, responded to questions appropriately, and was found to have sound mind (JUSTIA US Law, n.d.). However, when it came to her feet she was found to be psychotic. She was not able to make appropriate decisions regarding her feet due to a mental condition.

The court found that Mrs. Northern to be incompetent to make rational healthcare decisions. Mrs. Northern was made a ward of the state. The State of Tennessee, Department of Human Services, was assigned to be responsible for the personal welfare of Mrs. Northern. Afterwards, the State consented to APS and surgery (JUSTIA US Law, n.d.).

Tragically, on May 1, 1978, before surgery could take place, Mary C. Northern died in the hospital due to a blood clot from the gangrene (Jauhar, 2006).


Jauhar, S. (2006, July 11). He Wasn’t Thinking Straight. So How Do You Get Through? Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/11/health/11case.html

JUSTIA US Law. (n.d.).   State Dept. of Hum. Serv. v. Northern. Retrieved from http://law.justia.com/cases/tennessee/court-of-appeals/1978/563-s-w-2d-197-1.html

Last updated: June 7, 2020 at 16:45 pm by
I. M. Abumaria, Doctor of Nursing Practice
Version 2.00