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Missouri Department of Health Cruzan v. Director

Significance, The Accident, Who Decides?, Defining Life, Court Rejects Parents' Appeal, Discontinuance Of Life-support V. Assisted Suicide


Nancy Beth Cruzan, by her parents and co-guardians, Lester L. Cruzan, et ux.


Director, Missouri Department of Health, et al.

Petitioner's Claim

That the state of Missouri had no authority to interfere with the parents' wish to remove the tube that supplied food and water to Nancy Cruzan.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

William H. Colby

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Robert L. Presson, Attorney General of Missouri

Justices for the Court

Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist (writing for the Court), Antonin Scalia, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, John Paul Stevens


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

25 June 1990


The Court upheld the Missouri State Supreme Court's decision rejecting the Cruzans' petition to withdraw food and water from their daughter.

Related Cases

  • In the Matter of Quinlan, 355 A.2d 647 (1976).
  • Compassion In Dying v. State of Washington, 49 F.3d 586 (1995).


Constitutional Law: Thirteenth Edition New York City, NY: The Foundation Press Inc., 1997.

Further Readings

  • Kinsley, Michael. "To Be Or Not to Be." New Republic, 27 November 1989, p. 6.
  • "Right-to-Die Case Argued." Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 9 December 1989, p. 3370.
  • Sanders, Alain L. "Whose Right to Die?" Time, 11 December 1990, p. 80.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. Letting Go: Death, Dying, and the Law. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994