Beyond State Intervention in the Family: For Baby Jane Doe

Newspapers and broadcasters gave major billing to the story. Headlines announced: “The Life or Death Question of Baby Doe;” and “Baby Doe’s Parents Call U.S. Action Intimidating.” The medical care decisions about this infant born with spina bifida, microcephaly, and other severe disabilities, not only attracted mass media attention, but also led to both state and federal court proceedings. Legislative hearings raised the issue of her care. Many commentators debated what should happen to this infant of Long Island parents. This article instead will ask: what was all the attention about?; why are cases like this so riveting?; and might the reasons for public fascination and anguish illuminate alternative legal responses?