The granted , hearing arguments on January 8, 1997. Indeed, given its profound significance to a person's individual, familial, moral, spiritual and religious beliefs, it is difficult to view any other life choice as striking more to the core of personal dignity and autonomy than the decision of a competent and suffering terminally ill patient concerning how and when to die. As the second-most senior Justice on the Court after Chief Justice Rehnquist , it is likely that Stevens' would have written the opinion himself had Rehnquist not elected to do so. Codified Laws §§34-12D--14, 34-12D--20 1994 ; Tenn. Today, more than ever before nursing professionals are faced with challenges like catering to a global population. With him on the brief were Peter J. Accordingly, this component of liberty must extend to persons like the patient-respondents who, with their lives ending and their bodies wracked with pain, sought the means to preserve their dignity and control over their bodily integrity by obtaining prescribed medication to terminate their suffering.
See New York Task Force, When Death is Sought, supra, at 104-109. We granted certiorari, 518 U. . Conversely, a doctor who prescribes lethal medication does not necessarily intend the patient's death-rather that doctor may seek simply to ease the patient's suffering and to comply with her wishes. The New York statutes outlawing assisted suicide neither infringe fundamental rights nor involve suspect classifications, e.
The right of the terminally ill to hasten their death and escape intolerable pain is not only grounded in history, it is also implicit in the very concept of ordered liberty, as this Court has understood and applied that notion in past decisions. A Blanket Ban on Assistance to Suicide Is a Substantial Obstacle to the Right of the Terminally Ill to End Their Suffering B. Health Law §§ 2980-2994 McKinney 1993 and Supp. The purpose of terminal sedation is to ease the suffering of the patient and comply with her wishes, and the actual cause of death is the administration of heavy doses of lethal sedatives. Breyer's Concurrence Justice issued a joint concurrence with this case and. The risk of abuse or mistake exists in many medical contexts, including the end-of-life decisions already condoned by the State. Granted, in some cases, the line between the two may not be clear, but certainty is not required, even were it possible.
The fear of implicating one's friends or family in crime, moreover, often induces the terminally ill to carry out their resolve secretly and alone. Generally, laws that apply evenhandedly to all unquestionably comply with equal protection. On their faces, neither New York's ban on assisting suicide nor its statutes permitting patients to refuse medical treatment treat anyone differently than anyone else or draw any distinctions between persons. § 327D-13 1996 ; Idaho Code § 39-152 Supp. These sorts of slippery-slope arguments can be made in opposition to any constitutional right and have been leveled against many recently recognized, including the right to terminate life-sustaining treatment and the right to abortion. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Health Law §§ 2960 et seq. Those enduring a life racked with pain and utter helplessness may reasonably reject the prospect of a long vigil where family and friends loyally and lovingly witness their disintegration. The same is true when a doctor provides aggressive palliative care; in some cases, painkilling drugs may hasten a patient's death, but the physician's purpose and intent is, or may be, only to ease his patient's pain. A quiet, proud death, bodily integrity intact, is a matter of extreme consequence. Indeed, not only is that interest sometimes legitimate, I am also convinced that there are times when it is entitled to constitutional protection. Yalowitz, Anand Agneshwar, and Abe Krash.
See Brief for Bioethicists as Amici Curiae 11; see also R. Schmitz; for the American Hospital Association by Michael K. Burman, Kari Anne Smith, and Carla A. Given these general principles, it is not surprising that many courts, including New York courts, have carefully distinguished refusing life-sustaining treatment from suicide. In later cases coming to us from each of those States, however, we found that some applications of the statutes were unconstitutional. Davis; for State Legislators by Sherry F.
And while a small majority of states currently criminalize assistance to suicide, there is no reported American case of a physician criminally punished for helping a patient commit suicide notwithstanding the fact that assisting the terminally ill who wish to hasten their deaths has been a time-honored, though hidden, practice of compassionate physicians. Van de Kamp, 2 Cal. The State enacted its current assisted-suicide statutes in 1965. Justices , , , and filed separate concurring opinions. She said there was no constitutional conflict here; a patient was free to seek pain-relieving medication from their doctor, even at risk of health, to alleviate suffering, and this was a constitutionally acceptable alternative to permit in the absence of legalized assisted suicide. Washington and New York also rely on their interest in protecting vulnerable citizens. A state's categorical ban on physician assistance to suicide -- as applied to competent, terminally ill patients who wish to avoid unendurable pain and hasten inevitable death -- substantially interferes with this protected liberty interest and cannot be sustained.
States move to protect and promote patients' dignity at the end of life, they remain opposed to physician-assisted suicide. McFarland; for the Clarendon Foundation by Ronald D. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Law; for 36 Religious Organizations, Leaders, and Scholars by Barbara McDowell and Gregory A. Mazurek of Montana, Don Stenberg of Nebraska, Jeffrey R. Vacco; the New York Attorney General Respondents: Timothy E. Moreover, the practice of terminal sedation and intravenous morphine drip places the decision in the hands of doctors rather than patients.
Grossman are physicians who practice in New York. Monaghan; for the American Geriatrics Society by John H. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. I write separately to make it clear that there is also room for further debate about the limits that the Constitution places on the power of the States to punish the practice. Promoting a suicide attempt is a class E felony. Health Law § 2989 3 McKinney 1993 ; N.
These valid and important public interests easily satisfy the constitutional requirement that a legislative classification bear a rational relation to some legitimate end. Indeed, under applicable state statutes, a finding of competence is a necessary precondition to the execution of health care directives. Van de Kamp, 2 Cal. Instead, it was supported by the common-law tradition protecting the individual's general right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. In some cases, pain cannot be controlled even with full and appropriately timed doses of narcotics; in other cases, the toxic effects of the palliative agents may be intolerable. §§ 75-2-1116,75-2-1118 1993 ; Vt.