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Cruzan v. Missouri

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Cruzan v. Missouri - Page Text Content

BC: When Nancy Cruzan was involved in a life ending car accident, it not only changed the lives of her family, but it directly made the policy of what we as Americans know today as the "Right to Die Case."

FC: Cruzan v. Missouri | The Right to Die CAse

1: Table of Contents | Background....2 Case Info.......11 Supreme Court......14 Aftermath.....20

2: Background | On January 11, 1983, twenty-five-year-old Nancy Cruzan was driving home from her job late one night. It was raining and although there were no witnesses, police believe her car hit an icy patch, spun out of control, and rolled over several times. She landed in a ditch and was thrown from her vehicle.

3: When a trooper finally found her he had no idea how long she had been there and assumed she was dead. He took no steps to revive her.

5: The paramedics arrived five minutes later and were able to resuscitate Cruzan, saving her life. However, when she reached the hospital, doctors stated that she had suffered brain damage compounded by the lack of oxygen (doctors suspected she had been without oxygen for at least fourteen minutes) and had no hope for a full recovery.

7: Although Cruzan would never lead a normal life, the doctor's failed to mention this to her parents. They authorized that she undergo intensive surgery under the false pretense that she would be "all right." Weeks later, the neurosurgeon eventually expressed concerns about Nancy ever recovering but the parents stayed hopeful based on unclear information offered through previous reports.

8: Eventually Nancy slipped from her coma into what doctors have labeled a persistent vegetative state (PVS). Basically, her body was alive, but her mind remained dormant. After three years of hope that she would awaken from her PVS the family accepted the fact that she would never get better (of the roughly 100,000 patients in a PVS in the past twenty years, only three have recovered and none after more that twenty-two months).

10: Case Information

11: There is no way that Nancy would still be living were it not for the feeding and hydration tube, so in 1986 Nancy's parents asked that she be removed from these items. They believed their daughter would not have wished to live in a persistent vegetative state. The director of the center where Nancy was staying refused, concerned that the center would face a charge of murder.

12: The Cruzan family had no other choice but to go to court to try to make the decision for their incompetent daughter.

13: The family sought the counsel of Bill Colby to promote their case that their daughter. | The lower court judge initially refuted even believing the Nancy was a PVS patient but after hearing the families case he ruled in favor of the family that they could take their daughter off of life support.

14: The Cruzan v. Missouri case ultimately reached the US Supreme Court, during the tenure of William Rehnquist. The Rehnquist Court had never dealt with a case that focused on the legal terms of keeping a human being alive, which led to the case's name as "The Right to Die Case." The Rehnquist Court comprised of Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Brennan, Justice White, Justice Marshall, Justice Blackmun, Justice Stevens, Justice O'Connor, Justice Scalia, and Justice Kennedy.

15: Rehnquist Court

16: A major problem the Supreme Court had to tackle was to decide whether or not there is a "family right of sovereignty" that allows a family to override the state's motion to keep a human being alive. Since Nancy Cruzan was in the persistent vegetative state, she could not input her opinion onto the matter, which automatically did not allow any evidence to be present to state that she wanted to end her life. Because it is exceptionally expensive to pay for the medical treatment for keeping a person with PVS alive, the Cruzan family took the decision to pull the plug, which the Supreme Court understood, but still had to make a decision based on the statements of the US Constitution.

17: Cruzan family with their attorney, William H. Colby.

18: In a 5-4 final decision, the Rehnquist Court held the Missouri standing, that without written or verbal evidence, a person's life may not be ended based on the opinion of others, including the family members, according to the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Therefore, Nancy Cruzan was required to be kept on the expensive medical treatment, and her family was forced to suffer.

19: The justices who agreed with the majority were Chief Justice Rehnquist who wrote the majority opinion, and justices White, O'Connor, Scalia and Kennedy. The justices who dissented were Justices Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun and Stevens.

20: This case set the precedent for future cases that dealt with the "right to die." It enforced people to write their wills at a much earlier age, to allow proper evidence to always be available.

21: The Washington v. Glucksberg case was ruled similarly when the US Supreme Court held Washington's ruling that not allowing a physician to aid a patient to commit suicide does not violate the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

22: The Vacco v. Quill case was based on exactly the same principle as Washington v. Glucksberg, and both cases were decided, as the justices were already experienced with their decision of the Cruzan v. Missouri case.

23: After Cruzan v. Missouri, Pennsylvania implemented the Advance Directive for Health Care Act (ADHCA), which allowed an adult individual to state clearly in writing that he or she would like to end his or her life, and to ultimately refuse life sustaining medical treatment.

24: There are many cases that were influenced by Cruzan, but it is mainly the fact that the medical personell now have to make their decisions on how to treat a patient based on a single US Supreme Court ruling has major impact nationwide. Cruzan v. Missouri affected the way doctors have to perceive a particular patient due to the 5-4 decision made by the Rehnquist Court, but this perception may have been the opposite had any of the concurring justices dissented instead.

25: In 1992, a new piece of legislature named as the Natural Death Act was written, which stated that a person in PVS is only allowed remove all medical support if he or she can present written evidence of his or her own previous handwriting stating that he or she is allowing the doctor and the state to remove the medical treatment.

26: Nancy Cruzan's accident caused a growth to automobile inspection. As Cruzan completely lost control of her car, it was concluded that the car was old and it was bound to occur. However, the nation mandated the inspection of cars to be even more extensive than ever, to fully attempt to prevent such occurrences for the future.

27: WORKS CITED -,r:1,s:0,i:74&surl=1,r:1,s:0,i:75

28: Works Cited Cont.,r:0,s:0,i:111

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Jayanth Shekhar
  • By: Jayanth S.
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  • Title: Cruzan v. Missouri
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  • Published: almost 6 years ago