Top-Rated Free Essay

Right to Die

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, United States Constitution, Euthanasia, United States, Suicide, Death / Pages: 14 (3500 words) / Published: Dec 13th, 2012
Right to Die Overview What is the right to die? The right to die is also called euthanasia, which is also known as assisted suicide. Euthanasia means that someone has taken a deliberate action with the intention of ending a life to relieve unstoppable suffering. Some may say it is known as ending one’s life in a painless manner, while others would disagree because a reference should be included on the unstoppable suffering. There are two main classifications of assisted suicide: Voluntary euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is conducted with the consent of the person that wishes to take their life, while involuntary euthanasia is conducted without the consent of the person that wants it. With involuntary euthanasia the decision is made by another person because the other is incapable of saying yes or no for him or herself. There are two procedural classifications of euthanasia: Passive euthanasia and active euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is when life-sustaining treatment is withheld, whereas active euthanasia is where lethal substances or force is used to end someone’s life. Active euthanasia includes life ending actions done by the patient or somebody else. Active euthanasia has become a much more controversial subject than passive euthanasia. Some people are torn by the religious, moral, ethical and compassionate arguments surrounding the past and present issues on euthanasia (assisted suicide). Over the years euthanasia has been a very controversial topic. Assisted suicide can be interpreted several different ways. Conceivably the most widely used and accepted interpretation around the world is “the intentional speeding up of death by a terminally ill patient with assistance from a doctor, relative, or another person”. (Nordqvist, 2010) Some people would insist that something along the lines of “in order relieve unstoppable suffering” needs to be added to the meaning, while others insist that “terminally ill patient” already includes that meaning. (Nordqvist, 2010)
Right To Die (Assisted Suicide) Laws Every state within the continental United States has their own say as to how assisted suicide is considered a law. Currently there are 34 states that have statues explicitly criminalizing the right to die: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Nine states criminalize assisted suicide through the common law of that particular state: Alabama, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia. Three states have abolished the common law of crimes and have no statues criminalizing assisted suicide: North Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming. In the state of Ohio their supreme court ruled in October 1996 that assisted suicide is not a crime. In Virginia there is no real clear case law on assisted suicide, nor is there a statue criminalizing the act, although there is a statue which imposes civil sanctions on people assisting in a suicide. The two remaining states are the two that permit physician-assisted suicide. (Assisted Suicide Laws State by State, 2012) There are many laws around the world on assisted suicide that are clear in some nations but in others they are unclear if they exist at all. Just because countries have not defined its criminal codes on the specific action did not mean that every assister would go free. This particular situation is a complicated state of affairs. Great deals of people instinctively feel that assisted suicide and suicide are individual acts of freedom and free will, so they assume there are legal prohibitions. This misconception has landed many people in trouble with the law. While suicide is no longer a crime, assistance remains a crime almost everywhere by some sort of statue or other. There are quite a lot of countries around the world that have their own thing to say about the right to die, but I will only explain a few of them that lead to today’s laws on the situation. In Sweden there is no law specifically proscribing assisted suicide. Instead prosecutors may charge an assister with manslaughter. “In 1979 the Swedish right to die leader Berit Hedeby went to jail for a year for helping a man die.” (Humphry, 2005) Norway has criminal agreements against assisted suicide by using a charge called “accessory murder”. In some cases where consent was given and reasons concerned the court system passed lighter sentences. In recent laws commissions voted to de-criminalizing assisted suicide with a 5-2 vote. Also in Norway a retired physician, Christian Sandsdalen, was found guilty of willful murder in 2000. He admitted to giving an overdose of morphine to a woman persistently ill after 20 years who had begged for his help. Being found guilty cost him his medical license but he was not sentenced to jail time. He appealed his case many time to the Supreme Court and every time it lost. (Humphry, 2005) In Germany there has been no penalty for either suicide or assisted suicide since as early as 1751, although it rarely happened due to the taboo caused by the Nazi mass murders, plus powerful, contemporary, church influences. The direct killing by euthanasia is a crime, but yet there has been no penalty for it. “In 2000 a German appeal court cleared a Swiss clergyman of assisted suicide because there was no such offence, but convicted him of bringing drugs into the country” (Humphry, 2005). He was never sentenced to prison. With no penalty in Germany for assisting in the death of someone means that anyone can go into any hospital and give any patient that is on their death bed or just any patient that is terminally ill an overdose of medication and watch them die without being charged with murder or manslaughter. In the countries of England and Wales if anyone commits an assisted suicide act there is a possibility of being sentenced to 14 years in prison. Oddly enough though, suicide itself is not a crime after being decriminalized in 1961. Therefore it is a crime to assist a non-crime. In Britain, no case may be brought to court without the permissions from the Public Prosecutions Director in London, which rules out hasty, local police prosecutions. It’s been a long uphill fight for the British; they have had eight Bills or Amendments introduced into the Parliament from 1936-2003, all trying to modify the law on assisted suicide and how it should be allowed. None of them have succeeded, but the Joffe Bill that is currently sitting before the Parliament is getting to be more of a serious consideration than any similar measure. (Humphry, 2005) There are currently only four places that today legally and openly authorize assistance in the death of patients, they are: Oregon since 1997, Switzerland 1941, Belgium 2002, and Netherlands 2002 but was permitted by the courts since 1984. In Oregon, Belgium and the Netherlands two doctors and a psychologist must be involved if there are doubts about the patient’s competency, but those same rules do not apply to Switzerland, although one doctor is there because the right to die society insists on medical certification of a terminal condition before giving put lethal drugs. In the Netherlands voluntary as well as physician assisted suicide is permitted whereas in both Oregon and Switzerland they bar death by injection. Switzerland does not bar foreigners, but carefully watched is kept that the reasons for assisting are altruistic, as the law requires. When the willingness was published in newspapers worldwide, many sick people from all over Europe, and occasionally America started trekking to Switzerland to get a hastened death The Belgian law speaks of euthanasia being available only under certain circumstances. Assisted suicide is a term that Belgians are unfamiliar with. Whether a patient goes or not is left as a negotiation between the doctor and the patient. You must be a resident of Belgium, but not necessarily a citizen in order to be considered for the lethal injection or prescribed overdose. In the first full year, 203 patients received euthanasia from a doctor. The Oregon Death Will Dignity Act came under heavy pressure from the US Federal government in 2001 when Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a directive effectively and instantaneously ransacking the law. This directive brought on a public uproar that stated that the Federal government was abolishing a law that was twice voted on by the citizens of Oregon. Instantaneously the state of Oregon went to court to reverse the directive given by Attorney General John Ashcroft, the state won at the first stage but appeals are expected to continue until 2004. Ever since the 1980s right to die groups have continued to try to change the laws in Washington State, California, Michigan, Maine, Hawaii, and Vermont, but have still failed. Therefore in the USA, Oregon stands alone and under great pressure. By 2005 the US Supreme Court agreed to the federal government’s request for them to decide whether Oregon’s laws were constitutional. The case concerned not so much on the ethical correctness of physician-assisted suicide, but was turned legally on whether it was on the federal government or the states that controlled the dangerous drugs used by the doctors in Oregon. The court’s decision which is expected in early 2006, will affect how pain is controlled in America.
Court Cases
There are so many Supreme Court cases in regards to the right to die (euthanasia, assisted suicide), but I only want to talk about a few that rose havoc in society here in the US and around the world. The first case is Nancy Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health.
CRUZAN v. DIRECTOR, MDH, 497 U.S. 261 (1990)
No. 88-1503.
Argued December 6, 1989
Decided June 25, 1990 Petitioner Nancy Cruzan is incompetent, having sustained severe injuries in an automobile accident, and now lies in a Missouri state hospital in what is referred to as a persistent vegetative state: generally, a condition in which a person exhibits motor reflexes but evinces no indications of significant cognitive function. The State is bearing the cost of her care. Hospital employees refused, without court approval, to honor the request of Cruzan 's parents, copetitioners her, to terminate her artificial nutrition and hydration, since that would result in death. A state trial court authorized the termination, finding that a person in Cruzan 's condition has a fundamental right under the State and Federal Constitutions to direct or refuse the withdrawal of death-prolonging procedures, and that Cruzan 's expression to a former housemate that she would not wish to continue her life if sick or injured unless she could live at least halfway normally suggested that she would not wish to continue on with her nutrition and hydration. The State Supreme Court reversed. While recognizing a right to refuse treatment embodied in the common-law doctrine of informed consent, the court questioned its applicability in this case. It also declined to read into the State Constitution a broad right to privacy that would support an unrestricted right to refuse treatment and expressed doubt that the Federal Constitution embodied such a right. The court then decided that the State Living Will statute embodied a state policy strongly favoring the preservation of life, and that Cruzan 's statements to her housemate were unreliable for the purpose of determining her intent. It rejected the argument that her parents were entitled to order the termination of her medical treatment, concluding that no person can assume that choice for an incompetent in the absence of the formalities required by the Living Will statute or clear and convincing evidence of the patient 's wishes. Held: 1. The United States Constitution does not forbid Missouri to require that evidence of an incompetent 's wishes as to the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Pp. 269-285. [497 U.S. 261, 262] (Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health, 1990).
Certiorari to the United States court of appeals for the ninth circuit
No. 96-110. Argued January 8, 1997 -- Decided June 26, 1997
It has always been a crime to assist a suicide in the State of Washington. The State 's present law makes "[p]romoting a suicide attempt" a felony, and provides: "A person is guilty of [that crime] when he knowingly causes or aids another person to attempt suicide." Respondents, four Washington physicians who occasionally treat terminally ill, suffering patients, declare that they would assist these patients in ending their lives if not for the State 's assisted suicide ban. They, along with three gravely ill plaintiffs who have since died and a nonprofit organization that counsels people considering physician assisted suicide, filed this suit against petitioners, the State and its Attorney General, seeking a declaration that the ban is, on its face, unconstitutional. They assert a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment 's Due Process Clause which extends to a personal choice by a mentally competent, terminally ill adult to commit physician assisted suicide. Relying primarily on Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, and Cruzan v. Director, Mo. Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261, the Federal District Court agreed, concluding that Washington 's assisted suicide ban is unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on the exercise of that constitutionally protected liberty interest. The en banc Ninth Circuit affirmed.
Held: Washington 's prohibition against "caus[ing]" or "aid[ing]" a suicide does not violate the Due Process Clause. Pp. 5-32. (School, 1997)
No. 04—623. Argued October 5, 2005–Decided January 17, 2006 The Controlled Substances Act (CSA or Act), which was enacted in 1970 with the main objectives of combating drug abuse and controlling legitimate and illegitimate traffic in controlled substances, criminalizes, inter alia, the unauthorized distribution and dispensation of substances classified in any of its five schedules. The Attorney General may add, remove, or reschedule substances only after making particular findings, and on scientific and medical matters, he must accept the findings of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary). These proceedings must be on the record after an opportunity for comment. The dispute here involves controlled substances listed in Schedule II, which are generally available only by written prescription, 21 U.S.C. § 829(a). A 1971 regulation promulgated by the Attorney General requires that such prescriptions be used “for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his professional practice.” 21 CFR § 1306.04. To prevent diversion of controlled substances, the CSA regulates the activity of physicians, who must register in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the Attorney General. He may deny, suspend, or revoke a registration that, as relevant here, would be “inconsistent with the public interest.” 21 U.S.C. § 824(a)(4), 822(a)(2). In determining consistency with the public interest, he must consider five factors, including the State’s recommendation, compliance with state, federal, and local law regarding controlled substances, and “public health and safety.” §823(f). The CSA explicitly contemplates a role for the States in regulating controlled substances. See §903. The Oregon Death With Dignity Act (ODWDA) exempts from civil or criminal liability state-licensed physicians who, in compliance with ODWDA’s specific safeguards, dispense or prescribe a lethal dose of drugs upon the request of a terminally ill patient. In 2001, the Attorney General issued an Interpretive Rule to address the implementation and enforcement of the CSA with respect to ODWDA, declaring that using controlled substances to assist suicide is not a legitimate medical practice and that dispensing or prescribing them for this purpose is unlawful under the CSA. The State, a physician, a pharmacist, and some terminally ill state residents challenged the Rule. The District Court permanently enjoined its enforcement. The Ninth Circuit invalidated the Rule, reasoning that, by making a medical procedure authorized under Oregon law a federal offense, it altered the balance between the States and the Federal Government without the requisite clear statement that the CSA authorized the action; and in the alternative, that the Rule could not be squared with the CSA’s plain language, which targets only conventional drug abuse and excludes the Attorney General from medical policy decisions.
Held: The CSA does not allow the Attorney General to prohibit doctors from prescribing regulated drugs for use in physician-assisted suicide under state law permitting the procedure. Pp. 8—28. (Gonzales v. Oregon, 2006).
14th Amendment Due Process Clause
Due process is a difficult thing to define, and the Supreme Court has not been much help over the years. Here 's what we can say about due process: In the Magna Carta, due process is referred to as "law of the land" and "legal judgment of peers." Some state constitutions continue to use these phrases. The reference in the 5th Amendment applies only to the federal government and its courts and agencies. The reference in the 14th Amendment extends protection of due process to all state governments, agencies, and courts. Due process, in the context of the United States, refers to how and why laws are enforced. It applies to all persons, citizen or alien, as well as to corporations. In that, the "how" is procedural due process. Is a law too vague? Is it applied fairly to all? Does a law presume guilt? A vagrancy law might be declared too vague if the definition of a vagrant is not detailed enough. A law that makes wife beating illegal but permits husband beating might be declared to be an unfair application. A law must be clear, fair, and have a presumption of innocence to comply with procedural due process. The "why" is substantive due process. Even if an unreasonable law is passed and signed into law legally (procedural due process), substantive due process can make the law unconstitutional. The Roe v Wade abortion decision declared a Texas law in violation of due process and ruled that in the first trimester, it is unreasonable for a state to interfere with a woman 's right to an abortion; during the second trimester, it is reasonable for a state to regulate abortion in the interest of the health of mothers; and in the third, the state has a reasonable interest in protecting the fetus. Another application has been to strike down legislation requiring certain non-dangerous mentally ill persons be confined against their will. Generally, due process guarantees the following (this list is not exhaustive):
•Right to a fair and public trial conducted in a competent manner
•Right to be present at the trial
•Right to an impartial jury
•Right to be heard in one 's own defense
•Laws must be written so that a reasonable person can understand what criminal behavior is
•Taxes may only be taken for public purposes
•Property may be taken by the government only for public purposes
•Owners of taken property must be fairly compensated (Steve Mount, 2010). Now that I have showed you all the different laws from within the continental United States and from a few countries around the world, along with a few Supreme Court cases and the rights surrounding the 14th Amendment Due Process this should give you a better understanding of my original question. The right to die or euthanasia is not by no means something that goes unjust. The only state in the US that allows euthanasia is Oregon, so if anyone that is terminally ill in any other state wishes to take their life then Oregon is the state to live in. From around the world Sweden has no specific laws but a prosecutor could charge you with manslaughter and Germany there are no penalties but yet the direct killing by euthanasia is a crime. But now I ask should the right to die continue to be unconstitutional in the US and around the world?

Work Cited
Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (Supreme Court June 25, 1990).
Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (Supreme Court January 17, 2006).
Assisted Suicide Laws State By State. (2012, August 14). Retrieved from euthanasia : www.
Humphry, D. (2005, March 1). Assisted Suicide. Retrieved from Assisted suicide laws around the world:
Nordqvist, C. (2010, March 19). What Is Euthanasia (assisted Suicide)? What Is The Definition Of Assisted Suicide Or Euthanasia? Retrieved from Medical News Today:
School, C. U. (1997, June 26). Legal Information Insitute. Retrieved from Washington v. Glucksberg:
Steve Mount, C. W. (2010, January 24). Constitutional Topic: Due Process. Retrieved from U.S. Contstitution Online :

Cited: Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (Supreme Court June 25, 1990). Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (Supreme Court January 17, 2006). Assisted Suicide Laws State By State. (2012, August 14). Retrieved from euthanasia : www. Humphry, D. (2005, March 1). Assisted Suicide. Retrieved from Assisted suicide laws around the world: Nordqvist, C. (2010, March 19). What Is Euthanasia (assisted Suicide)? What Is The Definition Of Assisted Suicide Or Euthanasia? Retrieved from Medical News Today: School, C. U. (1997, June 26). Legal Information Insitute. Retrieved from Washington v. Glucksberg: Steve Mount, C. W. (2010, January 24). Constitutional Topic: Due Process. Retrieved from U.S. Contstitution Online :

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