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No decision on Cruzan?

The U.S. Supreme Court might not rule on the so-called "right to die" after all. New bills pending in the Missouri legislature would permit the removal of a feeding tube from thirtytwo-year-old Nancy Cruzan, who lies in a persistent vegetative state, and might lead the Court to vacate its impending decision regarding her fate.

Two of the three bills, which all have the support of Missouri Attorney General William Webster, would move medical decision-making in Missouri into greater conformity with procedures in other states. They create a mechanism by which patients could appoint surrogates for making health care decisions in the event of incompetency, and remove the nutrition and hydration exclusion" in Missouri's current living will statute. The third bill is more controversial. It permits the removal of life-sustaining treatment from patients who are diagnosed by three physicians to have been permanently unconscious" for three years, who have expressed in the past some wish not to remain in a permanently unconscious state, whose family agrees to withdraw the treatment, and for whom a probate court has appointed a guardian. The Cruzan family supports the bills, and Joe Cruzan testified in support of the third. Critics of the third bill are becoming more vocal, however, and it could be modified substantially before coming to a vote.

It appears unlikely that the bills would become law before the end of the Supreme Court term in late June. Some are beginning to speculate, however, that these developments could affect the Court's thinking on the issue. Conservatives on the Counrt, who deny the existence of a constitutional right to privacy, could cite Missouri's efforts as an example of how states are capable of handling termination of treatment problems. Moreover, if attorneys involved in Cruzan refer the Court to these developments, the Court might choose not to rule on the case at all.
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Title Annotation:U.S. Supreme Court right-to-die case
Author:Gauri, Varun
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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