Physician-assisted suicide presents one of the greatest dilemmas to th
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Physician-assisted suicide presents one of the greatest dilemmas to the medical profession.
Should someone who is mentally competent, but deemed terminally ill, be allowed to engage in physician-
assisted suicide? According to the First Amendment of The Constitution of The United States, “one has the
freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.“ The Fourteenth Amendment states, “The
State cannot deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny any
person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.“ The group believes that a terminally ill
patient has the Constitutional right to decide whether or not to end his or her life with the help of a licensed
There have been many cases over the years where a terminally ill patient who is mentally
competent has made the choice to either partake in physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia. “Physician-
assisted suicide occurs when the physician provides the patient with the means and/or knowledge to
commit suicide”(Death and Dying,91).
“Euthanasia is when the physician administers the death causing drug or agent”(Death and Dying,92).
The most recent case is that of The State of Florida v. Charles Hall. “Charles Hall is dying of
AIDS and challenged the State of Florida to let him die by a self-administered lethal injection without fear
of prosecution”(http://www.rights.org/ deathnet/open.html). On January 31, 1997, a Judge ruled that
Charles Hall could take his own life with the aid of a doctor. Senior Judge S. Joseph Davis, brought in
from Seminole County, “found that Florida’s strict privacy law and the equal protection clause in the U.S.
Constitution entitled Hall, 35, and Dr. McIver to carry out an assisted death without fear of prosecution”
On February 11, 1997, Charles Hall’s ruling was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court: he no
longer has the right to end his own life. He will have to wait until May 9, 1997 until new arguments will be
heard. Hall, who has been deemed mentally competent, contracted the virus in 1981 through a blood
transfusion. “Some of the complications he is encountering from the AIDS virus are arthritis, hepatitis,
pneumonia and a brain cyst” (http://www.rights.org/deathnet/ open.html).
The Oregon Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill adults who are mentally competent to
ask for a prescription for medication “for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified
manner”(http://www.rights.org/deathnet/ open.html). This act, “Measure 16,” was approved by the voters
in 1994. “Renewed efforts at the Legislative level to overturn “Measure 16” may now be anticipated to
prevent the law from being used”(http://www.rights.org/deathnet/open. html).
In June, 1990, the Supreme Court decided that the parents of 32 year old Nancy Beth Cruzan, who
had been in a car accident and in what Doctor’s called a vegetative state for seven years, could not end her
treatment. Later that same year, a Missouri Court ruled that the feeding tube could be removed after
evidence that Cruzan would wish to terminate the treatment was proven. “Nancy Beth Cruzan died twelve
days later”(Death and Dying,26).
The First Amendment gives one the right to demand the correction of an injustice. Would one not
consider a terminal illness an injustice? Charles Hall contracted this deadly disease from a blood
transfusion not from shooting drugs or having unprotected sex. So wouldn’t Hall be entitled to have this
The Fourteenth Amendment gives one the right to life, liberty, or property, without due process of
law. However, is living with complications from a terminal illness, so severe that one is unable to function
independently, life? The government says that it is. Liberty is freedom, but is having complications which
do not allow one to be free and independent, freedom? The government says once again that it is.
Freedom is also having the ability to make choices. These choices should include the ability to decide to
end one’s own life when such complications exist.
In conclusion, evidence has shown that the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution
entitles citizens of the United States of America the right to die. The government was setup to govern, not
to rule with absolute power. If the people were to keep silent about what they believe in, our government
would not exist as the system that it
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Euthanasia, Medical ethics, Assisted suicide, Disability rights, Right to die, Oregon Ballot Measure 16, Washington v. Glucksberg, Euthanasia in Canada
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