Chapter 11: Deliberate Termination of Life and Physician Assisted Suicide: Aid in Dying

Section 5. Case Study

Karen Gardner

Case Title: Oregon Euthanasia Law

Case Description: In 1994 voters in Oregon approved a ballot that allows legalized euthanasia under limited conditions, named Dying with Dignity law.


Case Description:


Ethical viewpoints:

Case Title: Law on Assisted Suicide

Description: in Washington there will be a law put through for the state of Oregon on assisted suicide. The US House Judiciary Committee has OKed the bill designed to block the law. The full house is expected to discuss the bill in September of this year.

name: Jon Shobin

Case: Ashcroft v. Oregon

Description: In 1994, Oregon passed a Death with Dignity Act that legalized physician-assisted suicide under certain circumstances. This was supported by the Clinton Administration, and in 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court rejected constitutional challenges to laws that barred it. Late in 2001, A.G. John Ashcroft directed the DEA to prosecute doctors who prescribed life-ending medication to terminally ill patients. Although he did this under the federal Controlled Substances Act, this was in apparent violation of Oregon law.

urls for analysts/commentators on case:

1. -- "Ashcroft v. Oregon." An overall historical summary of the controversy

2. -- "Ashcroft v. Oregon: Telling the States What to Do in Cases of Physician Assisted Suicide," by Michael Dorf, Columbia Univ. Law Professor -- A more in-depth discussion of the legal aspects of the case

3. -- Text of the Ashcroft memorandum on the case.

4. -- The State of Oregon's response to the Ashcroft ruling.

URLs for ethicists on the case:

1. -- The ethical commentary by the Oregon Right-To-Life organization. See search term "physician assisted suicide."

2. -- commentary by a death-with-dignity group about the 3/22/02 legal updates on the case.

3. -- In the American medical Association's "Case in Law and Ethics" section, ethical commentary on Ashcroft. v. Oregon.

4. -- The daily commentary of ethical issues from the perspective of the National Right-To-Life Organization. Edited by Wanda Franz, NRLC President. Includes comments on the Ashcroft case.

Name: Jon Shobin

Case name: New York State Assisted Suicide laws

Description: Unlike in Oregon, in New York it's illegal to help another person commit or attempt suicide. However, patients in New York can refuse even lifesaving medical treatment. The most recent New York legal rulings stem from the Quill case (Munson, p. 247) in which Dr. Quill prescribed drugs for a terminal patient who later used them to commit suicide. The State prosecuted Quill, and their decision was upheld in the Federal District Court. However, this was reversed by the Second Circuit Court, who felt that prohibiting prescribing such drugs to terminal, mentally competent patients was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

URLs about the case:

1. -- An excellent summary of bioethics law in NYS and a description of the Quill case.

2. -- CNN's 1997 take on the case, including quotes from Dr. Quill.

3. -- A public TV summary of the case just before the Quill decision, called "Before I Die -- The Physician Assisted Suicide Debate in the Courts."

4. -- A conference on Physician Assisted suicide at Wesleyn New Emgland College of Law -- includes refernce to Quill case before Circuit Coutr Decision

URLs for ethical commentary on the case:

1. -- commentary by Jack Freer, Ctr. for Clinical ethics and Humanities Health Care, SUNY Buffalo, about pain relief in end-of-life cases.

2. -- reprint of an article by Rev. Stephen Ryan of the Nat. Assn. of Catholic Chaplains -- religious ethical commentary about inadvisability of physician assisted suicide.

3. -- 1997 National Public Radio symposium on physician assisted suicide. Includes various ethical sides of the controversy and includes NY case.

4. -- Ethical summary by the AMA's council on Ethical amd Judicial Affairs, Reports on end-of-life care. 1998 AMA stance includes New York case.

Your NAME: Siu Hei Szeto

CASE TITLE: Deliberate Termination of Life: Physician Assisted Suicide

DESCRIPTION of the case by student: Physician assisted suicide has caused heated debates in the recent years. This case study provides basic information on the topic, including arguments for and against it. Is it moral? When, if ever, should it be permissible?

url's for the Articles Describing case:

This provides an introduction on the topic

Supreme Court and Physician Assisted Suicide

This talks about the social aspects of physician assisted suicide.

url's for Articles with Ethical Position: Philosophers, Theologians, Lawyers, Medical Doctors


Proceed to the DECISION SCENARIO section of the chapter by clicking here> section.

Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2002. All Rights reserved.

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