Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

The Court & Nancy Cruzan

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

The Court & Nancy Cruzan

Article excerpt

The Court & Nancy Cruzan

Nancy Beth Cruzan has lain in a persistent vegetative state without hope of recovery since an auto accident in January 1983, her life sustained by artificial nutrition and hydration. Convinced their daughter would not choose to continue to live in her present condition. Nancy's parents sought to end her tube feeding. A trial court ruling authorizing withdrawal was overturned in November 1988 by the Missouri Supreme Court, which held that Nancy's guardians could not exercise her right to refuse treatment for her and that the state's "unqualified" interest in preserving life should prevail.

Of the more than fifty "right to die" cases considered by state courts since 1976, Cruzan is the first to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The four articles that follow share a common uneasiness at finding this case before the Court, though for manifestly different reasons.

Susan M. Wolf and James Bopp, Jr., question how properly to weight patients' expressions of their wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment, and the role of family surrogate decisionmakers. Affirming the Missouri court's decision, Wolf argues, would strip us of our voices, our relationships, our very bodies, and mandate a world no one would want to live, or die in. …

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