December 26, 1990 - After seven long years in a vegetative state, Nancy Cruzan was allowed to die on this day.
In 1983 Nancy was 25 years old when the car she was driving went off the road and flipped over. She landed face-down in a ditch.
By the time paramedics reached her she had not breathed for approximately 15 minutes. They were able to resuscitate her, but she would never regain consciousness.
For five years Nancy's family fought to bring her back. All the latest treatments and therapies were exhausted before they reached the painful realization that Nancy would never wake up. Then began their long fight for her right to die.
The brutal public debate would stretch all the way to the United States Supreme Court where it would be the first right to die case heard by the high court. The Cruzan family lost in a 5-4 decision.
Eventually the saga would end in a Missouri circuit court when three of Nancy's friends presented "clear and convincing" evidence that she would not have wanted to go on living in her vegetative state.
The feeding tube was removed and 12 days later she died. Nancy's tombstone reads:
Born July 20, 1957 / Departed January 11, 1983
At Peace December 26, 1990
The Cruzan Family's fight for their daughter's right to die helped raise awareness about the need for advanced health directives and living wills. It also set the legal precedent that the right to die was not guaranteed by the Constitution.