The debate over whether physician-assisted suicide is ethical and should be legal has persisted for many years. Although many people feel the taking of a life is morally and biblically wrong, legalizing physician-assisted suicide can be a compassionate way to end suffering and pain due to terminal illness and provide a level of control for the patient over his or her own death.


I. Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS)

A. Definition and History

B. Dr. Jack Kevorkian

II. Euthanasia

A. Passive Euthanasia

B. Active Euthanasia

III. Patient Self-Determination Act

IV. Constitutional Rights

A. Equal protection clause – 14th Amendment to the Constitution

1. Basic component of human freedom

2. Right to decide one’s own destiny (autonomy)

B. 9th Amendment to the Constitution

V. Social Policy

A. Litigation

1. United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

2. United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

B. Legislation

1. Death with Dignity Act – Measure 16 (Oregon)

C. Doctors’ participation in PAS

VI. Legal Precedents

A. In re Quinlan, 70 NJ. 10, 355 A.2d 647, 664 (1976)

B. Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793 (1997)

C. Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (2006)

VII. Biblical Viewpoint

VIII. Conclusion

IX. References

Annas, G.J. (1976). Law and the life sciences: In re Quinlan: Legal comfort for doctors. The Hastings Center Report, 6(3), 29-31.

Bostrom, B.A. (2006). Gonzales v. Oregon. Issues in Law & Medicine, 21(3), 203-210.

Bross, W. & Ivey, J. (2006). Healthcare issues—patient self determination acts and informed consent. Alabama Nurse, 32(4), 9.

Bruder, P. (1996). Reaping the whirlwind: Legalizing assisted suicide. Hospital Topics, 74(3), 8-10.

Delka, L. (1995). Constitutional law: Physician-assisted suicide, crime or compassion? Washburn Law Journal, 35, 197-211.

Devlin, M. (1996). Quill v. Vacco. Issues in Law & Medicine, 12(1), 65-67.

Feinberg, B. (1998). The court upholds a state law prohibiting physician-assisted suicide. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 88(3), 847-876.

George, K. (2007). A woman’s choice? The gendered risks of voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Medical Law Review, 15, 1-33.

Hosseini, H.M. (2012). Ethics, the illegality of physician assisted suicide in the United States, and the role and ordeal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian before his death. Review of European Studies, 4(5), 203-209.

Keown, D. & Keown, J. (1995). Killing, karma and caring: Euthanasia in Buddhism and Christianity. Journal of Medical Ethics, 21, 265-269.

Martyn, S.R. & Bourguignon, H.J. (2000). Now is the moment to reflect: Two years of experience with Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law. The Elder Law Journal, 8, 1-56.

Morgan, R.C. & Sutherland, D.D. (1996). Last Rights? Confronting physician-assisted suicide in law and society: Legal liturgies on physician-assisted suicide. Stetson Law Review, 26(2), 481-528.

Stansbury, K.M. (1996). Health law—physician assisted suicide—due process, the right to die, equal protection and slippery slopes. Land and Water Law Review, 31, 623-644.

Valente, S.M. (2004). End-of-life challenges: Honoring autonomy. Cancer Nursing, 27(4), 314-319.

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