A comatose woman at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court's first right-to-die case probably will die of dehydration within two weeks now that her feeding tube has been removed, doctors said Saturday.
Nancy Cruzan's physician at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center in Mount Vernon removed the tube Friday, seven years after a car accident left her unconscious. The removal came shortly after a judge ordered the center to accede to the family's wishes to allow Cruzan to die."We'll see a shutdown of kidneys, and she'll gradually become less responsive," Dr. James C. Davis said.
The 33-year-old woman's body functions will gradually dwindle, primarily from dehydration, until all have failed and she dies, medical experts said.
Davis testified three years ago that he opposed removing the feeding tube. However, he said in court last month that he now believes it's in Cruzan's best interest to end her "living hell."
"I wouldn't want to live like that," Davis said Saturday.
Lester and Joyce Cruzan were at their daughter's side when Jasper County Probate Judge Charles Teel's ruling was announced Friday. They had fought since 1987 to have the tube removed, taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although food and water was withdrawn, Cruzan will continue to receive medication, mainly sedatives, and doctors said she should die peacefully.
"It will be very hard on the family . . . but it's the right thing to do," said Dr. Ronald Cranford, a Minneapolis neurologist who has examined Cruzan.
Dr. Stephen Lefrak, a professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, said Cruzan would feel no pain because of her neurological condition. Lefrak was not involved in the case.