female patient in hospital bed on ventilator

Hastings Center Report

Cruzan after Dobbs: What Remains of the Constitutional Right to Refuse Treatment?

Abstract: In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court removed constitutional protection from the individual’s right to end a pregnancy. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Court invalidated previous rulings protecting that right as part of the individual liberty and privacy interests embedded in the U.S. Constitution. Now, many observers are speculating about the fate of other rights founded on those interests. The Dobbs ruling conflicts with the Court’s 1990 Cruzan decision restricting the government’s power to interfere with personal medical choices. The language and reasoning in Dobbs and Cruzan offer guidance on how the Court might address future cases involving the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment. The decisions also point to policy strategies for preserving that right.

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