Cruzan v. Missouri

Versions Compared


  • This line was added.
  • This line was removed.
  • Formatting was changed.


II. Issues: Does Missouri's law requiring the presentation of "clear and convincing evidence" of an incompetent person's desire to remove medical aids necessary for remaining biologically alive violate a person's fundamental right under the Due Process Clause to retain control over his or her body (more specifically to refuse unwanted medical treatment?

III. Holding:  No.

IV. Reasoning: The Court held (with Rehnquist issuing the opinion) that, although the court has found a "constitutionally protected liberty interest in refusing unwanted medical treatment" in previous cases and assumed in this case that "the United States Constitution would grant a competent person a constitutionally protected right to refuse lifesaving hydration and nutrition," Missouri's requirement of "clear and convincing evidence" does not deny either right. According to the Court, Missouri has a proper interest in preserving human life and may "legitimately seek to safeguard the personal element [of the choice between life and death] through the imposition of heightened evidentiary requirements."  Even when surrogates are available (such as in this case), the Court argues, there remains a potential for abuse and the state of Missouriis entitled to guard against this possibility. In addition to the possibility of abuse, the Court realized that the views of family members are possibly not in following those the individual in question and, therefore, cannot be relied on in cases such as this one.  The Court also believed that Missouri can legitimately "assert an unqualified interest in the preservation of human life to be weighed against the constitutionally protected interests of the individual" without making judgments concerning the "quality of life" of that individual.  Accordingly, the Court argues that the "clear and convincing" requirement is a constitutional means of protecting these interests of the state.