Suicide Debate Reaches Suprme Court
O'Keefe, Mark, Bates, Tom, National Catholic Reporter
For most of human history in the West one's life was not one's own. A human being belonged to king or country and, above all, to God.
On Wednesday Jan. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to that notion as it listened to arguments on whether the terminally ill have a constitutional right to kill themselves with the help of a doctor.
The case, involving Washington and New York state laws, could be to doctor-assisted suicide what the Roe v. Wade decision was to abortion.
If the court agrees that human beings are autonomous, the individual--not the church, state or forces of nature--will have final say over life and death.
To Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire, it's not just a question of individual rights but of "changing our complete culture."
"It opens a whole new way of looking at things," she says.
Opponents of doctor-assisted suicide argue that if the Constitution gives freedom to end life with the help of a physician, then it may also safeguard the right to take hallucinogenic drugs, engage in prostitution or fight duels.
Right-to-die proponents say if freedom doesn't include the right to end one's life with the help of a physician, it will threaten abortion rights, contraceptive rights and the right to raise children according to one's own standards.
A decision against assisted suicide risks "cutting the roots out under the tree of liberty," says …
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Publication information: Article title: Suicide Debate Reaches Suprme Court. Contributors: O'Keefe, Mark - Author, Bates, Tom - Author. Magazine title: National Catholic Reporter. Volume: 33. Issue: 11 Publication date: January 17, 1997. Page number: 5. © 2009 National Catholic Reporter. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
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