11 research outputs found

    Intubation of the Permanently Unconscious: A Rejoinder to Rev. Edward Bayer, S.T.D.

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    Suicide: A Constitutional Right?

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    Recent advocacy of a right to suicide raises the question of whether statutes which penalize the assistance of suicide and the widespread practice of intervention to stop suicide attempts are unconstitutional. This article considers the claim that the right of privacy or substantive due process encompasses autonomy to do whatever affects no one else, and concludes that the Supreme Court has recognized only those forms of autonomy that it has deemed to be rooted in the traditions and history of our society. After outlining the attitudes toward suicide at various stages in Western Civilization, focusing on Anglo- American history and particularly on the legal tradition, the authors conclude that the predominant approach has been to discourage suicide and to penalize its assistance, while, at least in American history, to treat rather than condemn the suicide attempter. In their view, suicide has not historically been treated as a fundamental right. The article then relates psychological and sociological evidence that those who attempt suicide are normally ambivalent, usually do so for reasons other than a settled desire to die, and are predominantly the victims of mental disorder. Finally, the authors argue that societal sanctions for suicide would lead to manipulation by others and social pressure that would induce many unstable individuals, who would otherwise be helped, to commit suicide. For these reasons, the authors regard recognition of a right to suicide as unjustified and undesirable

    Out, Out Brief Candle: Constitutionally Prescribed Suicide for the Terminally Ill

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    Proponents of assisted suicide claim a constitutional right for competent adults with terminal conditions or unbearable suffering to receive a physician-prescribed lethal dose of drugs. Critics respond that any such right cannot be confined to such narrow categories in view of the abortion and withdrawal-of-treatment precedents and the force of reason and experience. Beyond the slippery slope that any constitutionally protected liberty to assisted suicide portends, such an asserted right has no historical basis and cannot be derived from principals implicit in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The claim that rational assisted suicide is a right presumes a set of restraints and conditions on the right\u27s exercise that cannot be adduced from the Constitution. Threshold requirements of terminal condition or unbearable suffering on the exercise of such a right are too vague or ambiguous to form cognizable bases to distinguish constitutionally protected conduct from conduct that might be penalized by the state. Further, neither proposed threshold requirement has any constitutional basis. Finally, awarding physicians a special right to assist in suicide is not supported by any hypothetical state interest, subverts state interests in the protection of life and health, and is contrary to expressed ethical policies of the medical profession