A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America

By Ian Dowbiggin | Go to book overview

6
Conclusion: The 1990s and
Beyond

The end of the Society for the Right to Die and the emergence of the new Choice in Dying in 1991 were just two in a dramatic sequence of events that, beginning in the late 1980s, marked a new chapter in a century-old saga. Throughout the 1990s, as opponents fought over physician-assisted suicide in America's courts, the political battleground shifted from the national arena to the state level. Promising opinion polls and the 1994 vote in Oregon in favor of the first law in America history permitting physician-assisted suicide appeared to give the euthanasia movement the decisive breakthrough that its activists had been dreaming about since the days of Charles Francis Potter. 1

But there were also signs that Americans' wariness about legalizing euthanasia had not changed much, even if support for its clandestine practice was at an all-time high. The Oregon victory was followed by referendum defeats in Michigan and Maine, and a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that denied a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide. As the twenty-first century dawned, euthanasia proponents faced the daunting prospect of having to fight

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