Nancy Cruzan Case

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Janice Grooms Nancy Cruzan Case Rasmussen College Author Note This research is being submitted on September 19, 2013 for Gina Farrell’s M230/HSC2641 Section 11 Medical Law and Ethics class. Nancy Cruzan Case On January 11, 1983, 25-year old Nancy Cruzan was driving alone on an icy road, lost control of her vehicle, and was seriously injured in the resulting accident. She never regained consciousness and was left in a vegetative state. She required no life support machinery other than a feeding tube implanted in her stomach in early 1983. She was not terminally ill. However, she was now an inconvenience to many people; the health care system, the state, and in particular her parents, Joe and Joyce Cruzan. But she was the opportunity of a lifetime for pro-euthanasiasts. Cruzan could not be killed without being dehumanized first, a task expertly performed by Dr. Fred Plum, Chief of Neurology at the Cornell New York Hospital. During testimony, he called her a mere "collection of organs" and an "artifact of technological medicine." Nancy's parents petitioned a lower court to order the Missouri Rehabilitation Center at Mount Vernon to starve their daughter. The court granted the petition, but the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the lower court decision, ruling that a decision to withhold or refuse treatment must be an "informed" one, and, most importantly, that the State's interest in human life does not depend on the quality of that life. On appeal, the Cruzan v. Director of Missouri Department of Health case became the first to directly address the question of euthanasia at the United States Supreme Court level. The Court essentially held that the states do not have to yield to family member's demands when a patient's wishes cannot be concretely determined. The ruling, however, indicated
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