Ethics: Whose Right to Die?

The Supreme Court will finally wrestle with the ultimate question

The nightmare began nearly seven years ago. In the early-morning hours of Jan. 11, 1983, Nancy Cruzan's car swerved on an icy and deserted Missouri country road. The car flipped and crashed. The 25-year-old woman tumbled out and landed facedown in a ditch. Medical help arrived promptly enough to save her life but not fast enough to save her oxygen-deprived brain.

Nancy Cruzan never regained consciousness after that accident, and doctors say she never will. Now 32, she lies in a condition known as a persistent vegetative state, awake but totally unaware, at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center at Mount Vernon. Her...

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