A recent court decision has vindicated the suicide-rights movement and thus put in jeopardy the lives of the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. On March 6 of this year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state of Washington's ban on physician-assisted suicide. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the majority, declared there is a constitutional right for the "competent, terminally ill" to take their lives with a physician's help.

This momentous court decision makes expansive use of the Supreme Court's abortion rulings to establish a constitutional right for some citizens to have themselves killed. It effectively reduced the terminally ill to the same legal status that Roe imposed on the unborn. Thus the poison of legalized abortion continues to seep through the body politic as inexorably as Dr. Jack Kevorkian's carbon monoxide.

The majority opinion for this case abounds with cavalier and arrogant assertions. Notably, it dismisses the importance of the crucial ethical distinction between direct killing and actions that allow people to die, such as withdrawal of treatment. It reversed a previous appeals-court decision that wisely declared that the state has a valid interest "in not having physicians in the role of killers of their patients."

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was not perturbed by the Dutch practice of assisted suicide and euthanasia that has widened to include a large number of nonconsenting clients. This is not really surprising. Though the decision claimed to vindicate the "liberty interest" of "terminally ill, competent adults who wish to hasten their own deaths," it explicitly envisions making "assisted suicide [sic]" available to noncompetent persons.

In his dissenting opinion, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Issue: