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Missouri Department of Health Cruzan v. Director

Court Rejects Parents' Appeal

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health was argued in December of 1989 and seven months later, Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered a majority opinion supporting the 5-4 decision of the Missouri Supreme Court, declaring that the state did indeed have the right to preserve life at all costs. Rehnquist noted in his opinion that the oral evidence presented to the Court by Cruzan's roommate, relating remarks Cruzan had made about not wishing to live life in a hospital bed, did not offer convincing proof of her wishes, and that her parents, as legal guardians, could not overrule. Rejecting the precedent set by the New York case, the Rehnquist opinion asserted that statements made by a healthy person could not constitute what that same person may have wished under other circumstances--in other words, that a competent person would not decide to starve.

A few months after the Supreme Court ruling in June of 1990, the Cruzan family again went before the original local court in Missouri to present more concrete testimony from witnesses regarding statements their daughter had made, and this time the court granted permission to remove the feeding tube. Nurses at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center opposed the decision, and spoke out publicly, noting that it was illegal to withhold food from a dog, and that they did not wish to have Cruzan's death occur willfully while under their care. Cruzan passed away 12 days later with her parents at her bedside.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Missouri Department of Health Cruzan v. Director - Significance, The Accident, Who Decides?, Defining Life, Court Rejects Parents' Appeal, Discontinuance Of Life-support V. Assisted Suicide