Twenty-five years old, Nancy Cruzan, was in an automobile accident on January 11, 1983. She was driving an old car, which lacked seat belts. Massive injuries resulted in her falling into an unconscious state, unresponsive to outside stimulation. Doctors estimated that Nancy’s brain had been without oxygen for at least fourteen minutes before she was found. A person who goes without oxygen for more than six minutes suffers brain damage that is beyond repair. She was placed on life-support equipment and was fed intravenously. After emerging from a three-week long coma, Nancy remained in a “persistent vegetative state,” a condition in which an unconscious person displays motor reflexes but exhibits no indications of significant cognitive function.
After nine years, when cruzans lost all their hope for the recovery of Nancy, they asked the director of the Missouri Rehabilitation center to remove the feeding and hydration tube, so Nancy could die. The director refused to do so, because at this time, the law in the state of Missouri did not allow for the removal of life support for a patient who legally could not speak or care for himself —unless there was “clear and convincing evidence” that this is what the patient wanted. The issue of this case was whether the State of Missouri had the right to require “clear and convincing evidence” in order for the Cruzans to remove their daughter from life support. This case was between the Cruzan’s and the state of Missouri.
Case for the Cruzens
According to the bill Colby, the lawyer of the Cruzan family, Nancy has the right to deny the medical treatment and die; this right is clearly stated in 14th amendment.
Case for the state of Missouri
The case for the state of Missouri was that does the Missouri has the right to demand “clear and convincing evidence” even Nancy’s right to choose what to do with her condition is protected in 14th amendment. The state of Missouri states that according to the 10th amendment Missouri has the right to set the standards and demand “clear and convincing evidence”. When the Court considered the problems of death and medical technology in this case, the vote was 5-4 to uphold Missouri’s stand. The Court felt that the Cruzan case was best explored in the area of “liberty” rather than “privacy.” The Supreme Court upheld the authority of States to demand “clear and convincing” evidence of the injured person’s wishes.
The Court ruled that the State of Missouri could prohibit the Cruzan family from removing feeding tubes from Nancy because there was no clear evidence that she would have wanted medical treatment stopped. The majority’s main problem was that of trust in the judgment of close family members. After the Court upheld the right of Missouri to demand, “clear and convincing evidence,” a new hearing was held before a Missouri court to determine Nancy Cruzan’s fate. After hearing testimony, a State judge authorized the disconnecting of the feeding tubes. Nancy Cruzan died 11 days later on December 26, 1990.
Courtney from Study Moose
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