In a decision with wide-ranging implications, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision in Cruzan ? Director of Missouri Department of Health, et al. The case addressed the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from terminally id patients; the court upheld Missouri's standard that states have the right to prevent family members or other appropriate surrogates from taking permanently unconscious patients off life-support systems unless there is "clear and convincing evidence" that the patients want the treatment ended.
The American Nurse's Association (ANA) and The American Association of Nurse Attorneys, which filed friend of the court briefs, disagreed with the court's ruling. Their contention was that society has long recognized the patient's right to refuse medical treatment; therefore, family members should be allowed to exercise that right for patients who cannot express their wishes themselves.
In other Congressional action, the ANA has endorsed the "Self-Determination Act." This bill would require hospitals to inform patients of their rights under state law as to their possible treatments in the event they can no longer make those kinds of decisions.
For more information, contact Donna Richardson, American Nurse's Association, Washington Office, 1101 14th Street, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005; 800-766-9094 or 202-7891800.