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Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health

United States Supreme Court
497 U.S. 261 (1990)


Facts

Nancy Beth Cruzan was rendered incompetent and left in a persistent vegetative state as a result of severe injuries sustained during an automobile accident. Co-plaintiffs Lester and Joyce Cruzan, Nancy’s parents and co-guardians, sought a court order in Missouri state court against the Director of the Missouri Department of Health (defendant), directing the withdrawal of their daughter’s artificial feeding and hydration equipment. As support for their claim that Nancy would have wanted her artificial life support removed, the Cruzans cited a “somewhat serious” conversation Nancy had with her housemate friend at the age of twenty-five in which she said that if sick or injured, she “would not wish to continue her life unless she could live at least halfway normally.” The Missouri trial court found that a person in Nancy’s condition has a fundamental right under the state and federal constitutions to refuse or direct the withdrawal of “death-prolonging procedures.” The Supreme Court of Missouri reversed, holding that because there was no clear and convincing evidence of Nancy’s desire to have life-sustaining treatment withdrawn under such circumstances, her parents lacked authority to effectuate such a request. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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