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[T]o call Nancy Cruzan's case a matter of the right to die seems strained, if not contrived. The situation is a tragic one. Cruzan has been in a persistent vegetative state since 1983, when, at the age of 25, she was in a severe car accident. Although she is able to breathe on her own, she receives all her nutrition and fluids through a feeding tube inserted into her stomach. When her parents sought to halt this life support, they were rebuffed, first by officials of the Missouri state hospital where Cruzan is a patient and ultimately by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Many would argue that Nancy Cruzan is "better off dead." Others would contend that keeping her alive is a misuse of limited resources especially at a time of soaring health-care costs. These may be good policy arguments. But policy arguments do not establish a constitutional right.


Reprinted with permission of West Academic. Published as Kamisar, Yale. "Final Frontier: Life, Death and Law." In Modern Constitutional Theory: A Reader. 2nd ed., edited by J. H. Garvey and T. A. Aleinikoff, 555-8. St. Paul, Minn.: West, 1991.