Cruzan Lawyer to Discuss "Right to Die"

Lexington, VA Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Bill Colby
Bill Colby, the lawyer who represented the family of Nancy Cruzan in their family's right-to-die case, will speak at the Washington and Lee University School of Law on Friday, Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall.

The title of Mr. Colby's talk is "From Nancy Cruzan to Terri Schiavo: The Right to Die in America Today." The lecture is free and open to the public.

"We are thrilled to have Bill Colby here speaking about the poignant story of Nancy Cruzan's long dying," said W&L law professor Robin F. Wilson, whose research includes a focus on bioethics. "His role in her family's lawsuit offers a real lesson for young lawyers seeking to have rich and long careers, in whatever filed they may choose."

In describing his talk, Colby notes that because of advances in medical technology, the U.S. will soon have 80 million people over the age of 65. 

"Modern medicine can deliver amazing results.  But sometimes we use medicine and machines because we can, with no one asking whether we should," says Colby.  "How can those in healthcare today best navigate this brave new world where the law, medicine, technology and demographics intersect?  And in 2010, twenty years after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Nancy Cruzan case, what is the proper role of the law?"

From the late 1980s into the 1990s, Colby represented several Missouri families in disputes over an issue that is popularly known as the "right to die."  Most well known was the case of Nancy Cruzan, which Colby argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. This case ultimately established the federal constitutional right to refuse unwanted medical treatment.

Colby is the author of two books, Unplugged: Reclaiming Our Right to Die in America (2006) and Long Goodbye: The Deaths of Nancy Cruzan (2003). Mr. Colby has appeared on LarryKing Live, CNN, NPR and The TodayShow. Mr. Colby is now the GeneralCounsel of Truman Medical Centers inKansas City, Missouri.

Bill Colby began his law practice in 1982 in Washington, D.C., as a clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals and then in the D.C. office of Davis Polk & Wardwell.  In 1985 he moved to Kansas City and joined Shook, Hardy & Bacon.  Over the years, he has represented large corporate clients as well as individuals in a wide variety of matters in courts across the U.S.

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