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14th Amendment: Right to Privacy (Right to Die)

By PudgyPigeon Sep 05, 2006 612 Words
Euthanasia is defined as the act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment. Euthanasia, today, has become a very controversial topic. The issue and question at hand is whether or not to allow euthanasia. We are questioned to let the ill have a prolonged life mechanically but miserably, assisting suicide, or natural death. Many people see death as an inevitable part of life while others fear it and want to strive to live on. However, the issues that are around euthanasia are not only about death, they are about ones right to privacy and control over their own body; in other words the fourteenth amendment.

In the 1994 case of Glucksberg v. Washington, also known as "Compassion In Dying v. The State of Washington", they explore right into this controversial topic of euthanasia. The right-to-die organization "Compassion In Dying", and Dr. Harold Glucksberg filed a lawsuit in opposition to the state of Washington for three fatally ill patients that Glucksberg treated.

Dr. Glucksberg and the organization "Compassion in Dying" entered their case saying that the ban against doctor-assisted suicide was violating the patient's right of due process and placed an unfair burden on fatally ill patients who required help to stop suffering from the disease that they had been diagnosed. Even though the case was in the state of Washington, it was seen in favor of Dr. Harold Glucksberg and "Compassion In Dying." Because of this the state laws changed in support of doctor-assisted suicide. However, the state of Washington still opposed the idea of this so they ordered an appeal of the law.

On March 6, 1996 the case reached the Supreme Court. Washington State challenged the existing ban on assisted suicide under the equal protection clause of the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment. The court noted that, under present law, a dying patient on life support may legally have it taken away to assist death while another dying patient, not on life support but suffering under similar situations and equally close to death, does not intend on ending their life. The court, ruled that, bans on assisted suicide would not be a violation of the second patient's equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. This U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld Washington State's legal ban on physician-assisted suicide.

Judge Reinhardt wrote: "If broad general state policies can be used to deprive a terminally ill individual of the right to make that choice, it is hard to envision where the exercise of arbitrary and intrusive power by the state can be halted." Reinhardt's decision and judgment was very similar to the decision on Roe v. Wade, because the issues have many similarities. Like the decision of whether or not to have an abortion, the decision how and when to die is one of the most important and private choices a person may make in a lifetime. In the end the defense had won the trail and it brought with it important aspects of euthanasia for the public to consider.

In conclusion the 14th amendment states that we have a right to "life, liberty, and property." More specifically, we should be able to do what we want with our bodies and we should be able to have the right to die. If you own your own body because the law says you do, doesn't that mean you're legally allowed to do what you want with your body? Technically that makes sense. This is the basis on which the Supreme Court agreed upon ethically as to upholding Washington State's legal ban on physician-assisted suicide.

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