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Human Euthanasia

Essay by   •  April 21, 2012  •  Essay  •  600 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,304 Views

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suicides of over forty people in Michigan. Although he was charged with murder, the suit was dropped because of an absence of state laws against suicide or assisting suicide. Starting in 1999, Kevorkian was in jail for eight years following a conviction stemming from a video he broadcast on 60 Minutes in which he personally injected a consenting Thomas Youk (52 years old and dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) with lethal drugs . He was convicted of second-degree murder and spent 8 years in jail before being released in 2007 on compassionate grounds.

Dr. Kevorkian's activities sparked a flurry of physician-assisted suicide related legislation and lawsuits, with seven states introducing legislation allowing physician-assisted suicide or filing suit against existing laws banning the practice. The most popular iteration of pro-suicide legislation permitted terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to seek physician aid in dying, with slight differences and additional provisions varying between states. In 1992 in California, the pro assisted suicide group Californians against Human Suffering pushed Proposition 161, which failed with a 46% vote. 1994 saw three states take action involving assisted suicide, one of which was Oregon, which merits a discussion of its own in the following paragraph. The other two actions include Vacco v. Quill, a New York suit filed against the state's ban on assisted suicide on equal protection grounds, went to the US Supreme Court, where the court found 9-0 in favor of the state. Washington's Initiative 119 failed to legalize assisted suicide, but Initiative 1000, a nearly identical law, would pass four years later in 2008 with a strong 57.8% majority. The remaining state-level events related to assisted suicide consist of a 1997 Florida Supreme Court case that failed to overturn the state's ban on assisted suicide as unconstitutional, a 1999 Alaska Supreme Court suit on the same grounds with an identical result, and a 2009 Montana case that legalized assisted suicide.

Perhaps the most significant and well known action at the state level occurred in Oregon, where Ballot Measure 16 passed with 51% of the vote and enacted the famous Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which served as the model for future legislation in other states. The act proscribes that a mentally sound but terminally ill patient with less than six months to live as diagnosed by two doctors may request a lethal dose of medication. The patient must repeat the request after 15 days of the original request, and there must be two witnesses to the requests, one of whom cannot be related to the patient . Due to the restrictive wording of the legislation, the Death with Dignity Act came to be popularly seen as an effective way to permit assisted suicide, and a 1997 attempt to repeal the act failed with a mere 40% of the vote.

Ideally, a truly comprehensive legal discussion of physician assisted

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