JEFFERSON CITY, MO., DEC. 29 -- In the wake of Nancy Cruzan's death, combatants over the right to die are ready for fresh debate in the Missouri legislature.
Cruzan, who died Wednesday at age 33, had been hospitalized with no hope of recovery since a 1983 car wreck. Her parents pursued to the Supreme Court their quest to have the woman's life-sustaining feeding tube removed, saying they believed she would prefer not to live in a persistent vegetative state.
Their three years of litigation were prompted partly by the lack of any written instructions from Cruzan about how to handle her incapacity.
With the Cruzan case in mind, state Sen. Bob Johnson is sponsoring a "health-care surrogate bill" to prevent others in Missouri from having to face the same legal ordeal. He failed in a bid to get similar legislation passed in the last session.
His bill would allow a person to sign legal documents designating one or more family members or friends to make any health-care decision when the person becomes incapacitated. The advance instructions could include approving withdrawal of food and water.
"If you sign this document, there's no question that you wouldn't have to go through what the Cruzans faced because it would be out of the court system," he said.
Missouri Catholic Conference lobbyist Lou DeFeo, who organized opposition to Johnson's earlier bill, said he will work against the new one. "The major defect is there are no safeguards for a vulnerable person, and the persons most in need are the ones who will be the most vulnerable," he said.