Cruzan v. Harmon and the Dangerous Claim that Others Can Exercise an Incapacitated Patient's Right to Die
Ira Mark Ellman
Arizona State University College of Law; Arizona State University (ASU) - Department of Psychology; Center for the Study of Law and Society, Berkeley Law, University of California, Berkeley
Jurimetrics, Vol. 29, p. 389, 1989
This article addresses the issues raised by the case involving Nancy Cruzan and her family's tragic dilemma. While the article agrees that withdrawal of life support from Nancy Cruzan is appropriate, and that the Missouri court was wrong in finding an important moral and legal difference between the discontinuance of technologically supplied nutrition and other forms of medical treatment, this is not the question before the U.S. Supreme Court. This article argues that in order to overrule Missouri, the Court must transform the question in Cruzan into one of federal law by holding that under the circumstances of this case the Constitution compels Missouri to order physicians to follow the instructions of Nancy Cruzan's family. It concludes, however, that this result would both set back the law of death and dying, and also confuse constitutional doctrine. Withdrawing life support is often the right course, but to correct Missouri's mistaken decision through a constitutional rule will necessarily sweep too broadly. Danger lurks if the Court grants family members a constitutional right to withdraw care from a patient whose views are unknown, thus disabling the states from working out an appropriate process for weighing the competing considerations.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 13
Keywords: Constitutional Law, Right To Die, Nancy Cruzan
Date posted: September 3, 2009
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