Thursday, September 19, 2019
Free Euthanasia Essays: Assisted Suicide and the Supreme Court :: Free Euthanasia Essay
Assisted Suicide and the Supreme Court The Court upheld two state laws absolutely prohibiting assisted suicide, stating that Washington state's law does not violate constitutional guarantees of "liberty" (Washington v. Glucksberg) and that New York's similar law does not violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection (Vacco v. Quill). Oregon's law selectively permitting assisted suicide for certain patients had been found by one federal district court to violate equal protection; that ruling was not before the Supreme Court. See Lee v. Oregon, 891 F.Supp. 1429 (D. Or. 1995), vacated on other grounds, 107 F.3d 1382 (9th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 118 S. Ct. 328 (1997). As Chief Justice Rehnquist said in his majority opinion in Glucksberg: "Lee, of course, is not before us... and we offer no opinion as to the validity of the Lee courts' reasoning. In Vacco v. Quill..., however, decided today, we hold that New York's assisted-suicide ban does not violate the Equal Protection clause." Washington v. Glucksberg, 117 S. Ct . 2258, 2262 n. 7 (1997) (emphasis added). To this day no appellate court in the country has ruled on the constitutionality of a law like Oregon's. The Court also said nothing about assigning this issue to state as opposed to federal jurisdiction. In reviewing the Nation's longstanding tradition against assisted suicide, it cited federal enactments such as the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997 alongside state laws. Illustrating the government's interest in protecting terminally ill patients, the Court favorably cited an earlier decision upholding the federal Food and Drug Administration's authority "to protect the terminally ill, no less than other patients," from life-endangering drugs. Washington v. Glucksberg, 117 S. Ct. at 2272, quoting United States v. Rutherford, 442 U.S. 544, 558 (1979). What the Court did rule is that laws prohibiting assisted suicide (whether state or federal) are constitutionally valid and serve several important and legitimate interests. Excerpts follow: Washington v. Glucksberg The question presented in this case is whether Washington's prohibition against "caus[ing]" or "aid[ing]" a suicide offends the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We hold that it does not... In almost every State -- indeed, in almost every western democracy -- it is a crime to assist a suicide. The States' assisted-suicide bans are not innovations. Rather, they are longstanding expressions of the States' commitment to the protection and preservation of all human life.