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 medical doctor. 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 (Sun-Sentinel, 1A). 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 injustice corrected? 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 dependently, 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 is today. Our democracy was created because of those brave souls who fought for their rights, and we should follow in their footsteps. If everyone would voice their opinion in favor for the right to die, the government would have to attend to the peoples’ wishes.