January #31 : Supreme Indecision - by Laura Hershey

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
E-newsletters
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join
Username:
Password:

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues




Table of Contents

Michael Jeter Takes on Hollywood

Bastard Nation

The Eyes Have It?

Their Own Private Africa

Supreme Indecision

Come Together, Right Now

Over My Dead Body

What a Riot

All About Colleen

Barred and Dangerous

Second-Class Organs

Loaded News

Up All Night

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Do the White Thing

Go Fish

The Reconstruction Era

ICAAC: Pros and Cons

Simply Undetectable

One Singular Sensation

Mind Your ZZZs and Snooze

Ad Fib

Italian Yeast Fighter

Not Tonight, Honey

What Did I Do Right?

S.O.S.

Miss Diagnosis

Cyber POZ: TPAN Alley

Let the Sunshine In

Lady Bunny



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


email print

January 1998

Supreme Indecision

by Laura Hershey

The highest court's ruling against doc-aided death

Do you have a right to a doctor’s help to end your life? The U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision last June that in no way put the anguishing issue to rest, said no. In separate cases, plaintiffs had sued Washington and New York states, claiming that bans on physician-assisted suicide are unconstitutional. They argued that while it is legal to hasten death by refusing life-support, terminally ill people who are not on life-support but want to end their suffering are denied administration of lethal drugs. The plaintiffs called this "unequal treatment" because one group of people (those kept alive by such measures as ventilators and feeding tubes) are treated differently from another (the terminally ill who are able to live without these measures). Federal appeals courts agreed; the Supreme Court unanimously did not.

Unanimity is unusual for the Justice, and while all nine reached the same conclusion, they took different roads to get there. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s majority decision was based as much on legal tradition as on universal principles. Invoking concepts of common law that have, for more than 700 years, forbidden aiding death, he wrote that there’s a "distinction between letting a patient die and making that patient die." Plus, since terminating your own life was never before regarded as a legal right, it could not be so now – in contrast to the withdrawal of life-support, which is consistent with the time-honored right to refuse medical treatment.

Justice O’Connor signed the majority opinion but also wrote her own, leaving the door open for future consideration of the issue. She left unanswered "whether a competent person who is experiencing great suffering has a constitutionally cognizable interest in controlling the circumstances of his or her imminent death," concluding only that in these two cases the question was moot because Washington and New York allow doctors to give high-dose pain-relieving drugs, even when death results. O’Connor also suggested that state legislatures be permitted to legalize and regulate the practice: "There is no reason to think the democratic process will not strike the proper balance between the interests of terminally ill, mentally competent individuals who would seek to end their suffering and the state’s interest in protecting those who might seek to end life mistakenly or under pressure." And in a separate opinion that raised the relevance of "basic values" transcending legal conventions, Justice Souter went further, allowing that assisted suicide may, at some point be found to be consistent with individual liberty.

Public opinion seems to contradict the court’s decision. A recent poll found two third of U.S. adults favoring limited legalization of doctor-aided suicide. Activists on al sides are gearing up for battles that, from now on, will be waged mainly state by state. Twenty-one state legislatures this year considered bills that clarify or regulate the use of pain medication for patients near death – including the administration of drugs that may hasten death. In October, the Supreme Court refused to consider the constitutionality of Oregon’s 1994 voter initiative that legalizes assisted suicide, removing a major obstacle to the law’s taking effect. Oregon voters were scheduled to decide on a repeal of the law as POZ

Search: assisted suicide, supreme court


Scroll down to comment on this story.





Name:

(will display; 2-50 characters)

Email:

(will NOT display)

City:

(will display; optional)

Comment (500 characters left):

(Note: The POZ team reviews all comments before they are posted. Please do not include either ":" or "@" in your comment. The opinions expressed by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong, which is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by people providing comments.)

Comments require captcha.
Please enter this number for verification:

| Posting Rules



Show comments (0 total)

 
[Go to top]

Join POZ Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV 101
HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ TV
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Women
African American
Latino
Providers
Job Listings
Events Calendar


    dave41
    Bethany
    Oklahoma


    soy_Ric
    Rochester
    New York


    Sexynyrican
    Brooklyn
    New York


    clintonjrsyr
    syracuse
    New York
Click here to join POZ Personals!
Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Poll
Do you enjoy books with HIV-positive characters?
Yes
No

Survey
Mind Matters

more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2014 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.