The agonizing case of Terri Schiavo has revived the RIGHT-TO-DIE debate. In a 1990 story (featuring Christine Busalacchi and her father on the cover), TIME explored how families cope.
Nancy Cruzan, now 32, has done nothing for the past seven years. She has not hugged her mother or gazed out the window or played with her nieces. She has neither laughed nor wept, her parents say, nor spoken a word. Since her car crashed on an icy night, she has lain so still for so long that her hands have curled into claws; nurses wedge napkins under her fingers to prevent the nails from piercing her wrists. "She would hate being like this," says her mother Joyce. "It took a long time to accept she wasn't getting better." If they chose, the Cruzans could slip into Nancy's room some night, disconnect her feeding tube, and face the consequences. But instead they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to end their daughter's life. The Cruzan petition not only marks the first time the court has grappled with the agonizing "right to die" dilemma; it may well be the most wrenching medical case ever argued before the high bench.
--TIME, March 19, 1990