Life and Death Choices after Cruzan: Case Law and Standards of Professional Conduct

Medical practitioners often feel obligated to use all available procedures to sustain patients’ lives. A review of case law indicates, however, that practitioners who abate treatment that is contrary to people’s known preferences or current best interests act legally and in accordance with the highest professional standards. In the case of Nancy Cruzan, the Supreme Court delegated to the states the determination whether to respect the rights of nonautonomous patients to die with dignity. States should enact creative laws to encourage families and physicians to discuss final care, and assist people in making clear and simple statements about their preferences.

Author(s): Larry Gostin; Robert F. Weir

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Volume 69, Issue 1 (pages 143–173)
Published in 1991