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Physician Assisted Suicide Essay

2561 words - 11 pages

Physician Assisted Suicide

A poll in 1999 found that 52% of Americans though that Kevorkian should have been found guilty on some charge, while only 27% said that he was not guilty. The survey also found that 45% of Americans have a positive opinion of Kevorkian while 36% have an unfavorable one. After being informed that Kevorkian does not have a license to practice medicine and that he supports the right of doctors to help healthy patients die, his approval rating dropped to 19%, while his unfavorable rating rose to 57%.

Public support for physician assisted suicide was confined to the limited situation where a terminally ill patient would ask a doctor for help to commit suicide. ...view middle of the document...

“Patients in America can be relieved that the guilty verdict against Jack Kevorkian helps protect them from those who would take their live prematurely.” American Medical Association

“This is not some angel of mercy that we’re dealing with here…But when the body bags are tallied, Kevorkian is revealed for what he is: a romanticized version of Ted Bundy, stacking corpses like cordwood and proud of it.” Pete Waldmeir, Detroit News

“He’s a martyr. He’s acted in a great American tradition of civil disobedience.” “It was so clearly not a crime.” Faye Girsh, Hemlock Society Director

-compiled from IAETF Update, Jan-March 1999

State Response to Physician Assisted Suicide

The states have acted in various ways to the issue of physician assisted suicide. Thirty six states have statutes that explicitly criminalize assisted suicide: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin. Eight states criminalize it through common law: Alabama, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Vermont, West Virginia. Three have abolished common law crimes and do not have statutes criminalizing assisted suicide: North Carolina, Utah, Wyoming. In Ohio, the state’s supreme court ruled in Oct 1996 that assisted suicide is not a crime. In Virginia, there is no real clear case law on assisted suicide, nor is there a statute criminalizing the act. However, there is a statute that imposes civil sanctions on person assisting in suicide. Oregon permits physician assisted suicide.

Many of these states have challenged the laws throughout the recent years. In result, no state has changed its ban on physician assisted suicide, however, South Carolina recently joined the list of states that have statutes banning the act. In Alaska assisted suicide was unanimously rejected in 2001. In California, it is seriously opposed by the Broad Coalition. However, in January 2003, at the Annual Hemlock Society conference in San Diego, CA, Dr. Philip Nitschke was a featured speaker. He described his new suicide machine, funded by Hemlock, that generates carbon monoxide and can cause death within thirty minutes to an hour. Interestingly, in 1998, CA passed a law that prohibits the use of carbon monoxide to kill animals. (International Task Force) In Florida news the Schiavo case caused an uproar and new questions of assisted death. Hawaii’s senate rejected assisted suicide in 2002. The Kentucky Supreme Court issued a stunning decision on August 26 2004, granting legal authority to the state of Kentucky to end the life of a totally innocent ward of the state. Maine voters rejected physician assisted suicide in 2000. Vermont proposed a bill to...

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