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June 25, 1990 – Supreme Court Rules in Cruzan Case That a Person Has the Right to Refuse Life Saving Medical Service

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health comes before the United States Supreme Court. The case receives national attention, as it is the first right-to-die case that the court has agreed to hear. In 1983, a car acccident had left Nancy Cruzan permanently unconscious (by most accounts). Her parents requested to withdraw her feeding tube, but the Missouri Supreme Court refused. The United States Supreme Court ruled that a competent person has a constitutionally protected right to refuse any medical treatment, but upholds Missouri’s right to insist on clear and convincing evidence as to the wishes of patients who do not have decision-making capacity. In light of the ruling, the Cruzans’ lawyer goes back to court with new evidence as to Nancy’s prior wishes, and Nancy’s feeding tube is removed. She dies on December 26th, 1990.