Euthanasia Essay - Assisted Suicide and the Supreme Court

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Assisted Suicide and the Supreme Court

After the nation's highest court declared that U.S. citizens are not constitutionally guaranteed the right to a physician-assisted suicide, the movement has sort of lost its steam. Why do the Supreme Court Justices consider legalization dangerous? How did it win legislative approval in Oregon in the first place? What is the current trend in public opinion about this question? This essay will delve into these questions.

After the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a crushing blow to the assisted suicide movement, time stopped for the activists. In a unanimous decision, the nine justices upheld the right of each and every state to protect its residents. Justice Rehnquist, writing for the Court, clearly articulated the dangers that legalized assisted suicide would pose, particularly to those who are most vulnerable: "The risk of harm is greatest for the many individuals in our society whose autonomy and well-being are already compromised by poverty, lack of access to good medical care, advanced age, or membership in a stigmatized social group."(1)

With the Court's decision, the door was slammed in the faces of those who sought to prevent full public discussion of what permissive assisted suicide would mean to all of us. Contrary to what some have said, the decision did not open any doors. Instead it recognized that the debate belongs at the state level where the realities can be fully and honestly addressed. Now, with their resounding defeat from the Supreme Court, assisted suicide advocates are forced to take their case before the court of public opinion where they are losing support.

During the last year, national support for euthanasia has fallen 18 percentage points. In ...

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...orting those who want to die," Boston Globe, Jan. 18, 1994.)

14.) "Model Aid-in-Dying Act," Iowa Law Review, vol. 75, no. 1 (1989).

15.) John Hofsess' announcement of the availability of the Art & Science of suicide project made to the right-to-die mailing list, August 20, 1996. Hofsess described Smith's chapters: "Ms. Smith's chapters provide specialized information on such subjects as tricyclic antidepressants; barbiturates; and carbon monoxide. Each chapter has been updated (August 1996) to include the latest research available. For example, the barbiturates article incorporates new information derived from the experience of Compassion in Dying in Washington State. The carbon monoxide article includes reports of successful suicides in Canada and the United States using various sources of CO."

16.) Tom Bates, "Write to Die," Oregonian, Dec. 18, 1994.
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