100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.

Nancy Cruzan

Nancy Cruzan

The Right to Die

“Evidence Regarding the Patient's Intent”

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health 497 U.S. 261 (1990)

On January 11, 1983, twenty-five-year-old Nancy Cruzan left a Missouri country music bar after having an argument with her husband. She drove her 1963 green and white Rambler off the side of the road, hitting some trees and a mailbox. The car flipped over and threw Nancy thirty-five feet to land face down in a ditch. She remained unconscious, not breathing, and without a pulse for at least twelve minutes before paramedics arrived on the scene and attempted unsuccessfully to revive her.

She never regained consciousness. She was diagnosed with a lacerated liver and cerebral contusion, exacerbated by twelve to fourteen minutes of anoxia (the absence of ...

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