Revolt against 'Right-to-Die' Movement Critics Marshal Arguments against Doctor-Assisted Suicide

By Robert Marquand, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 6, 1996 | Go to article overview

Revolt against 'Right-to-Die' Movement Critics Marshal Arguments against Doctor-Assisted Suicide


Robert Marquand, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The "right to die" cause is building legal and popular momentum, with two federal courts recently allowing physician-assisted suicide and with polls showing 73 percent of Americans approve of the practice. Despite public sympathy for what is a wrenching personal choice, the right-to-die movement has hit a snag. A legal, moral, and intellectual uprising against assisted suicide has emerged, partly in reaction to the clear shift toward its approval. The fight may be bitter. The dramas of Michigan "suicide doctor" Jack Kevorkian, the stark testimony of patients and their families, and a new legal underpinning based on individual rights have led some experts to suggest that a US Supreme Court ruling to uphold a right to die may be in the offing. New York and Washington State have asked the high court to review the two federal court decisions. If the supreme bench agrees this fall to take the case, one of the most important decisions since Roe v. Wade could come by next spring. Opponents are a broad and disparate group - physicians, legal scholars, religious thinkers, and ethicists. At bottom, opponents feel legal suicide is too profound an issue to rush into. They question whether a right to die is a constitutional right. Moreover, they share the view that doctor-assisted suicide, if not handled properly, could become dangerously routine, slowly cheapening the collective value of life in the US. Last week a loose coalition of antisuicide attorneys, led in part by University of Michigan scholar Yale Kamisar, met in Washington for a strategy session, in the event the Supreme Court takes up the issue. "We are now in a second wave of questioning," says Daniel Callahan of the Hastings Center in Westchester County, N.Y. "When people begin thinking about it, this issue becomes less simple and more complex." US law makes sharp distinctions between being allowed to die and actively seeking to end one's life. The Supreme Court recognizes the right to refuse medical treatment or be voluntarily removed from life-support equipment. Yet allowing mentally competent individuals to "determine the time and manner" of their own deaths, as Judge Stephen Reinhardt argued in March for the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court, is criminal in 34 states and has never been upheld by the high court. So far, the issue has been dominated by Mr. Kevorkian, a pathologist defrocked of his medical license, who earned the title "Dr. Death" in the 1950s when he tried to capture on film the moment when a person dies. Since 1990, Kevorkian has helped 33 clients end their lives. Last week he made headlines again when a Michigan medical examiner said Kevorkian's last client, Rebecca Badger, showed no signs of terminal illness in an autopsy, though in 1988 doctors diagnosed multiple sclerosis. At the National Press Club on July 29, Kevorkian and his lawyer Geoffrey Fieger denied the charges and attacked the courts as corrupt and the media as "wimps." Mr. Fieger said, "This is not the right to commit suicide.... It is the right not to suffer." Opponents say the focus on the personality of Kevorkian, and on tragic individual cases of patients, must be balanced by the larger practical effect of euthanasia. Some in the antisuicide uprising do not take an absolute position against it. What they want is a more conscious choice by Americans, not a rush to judgment. As Yale law professor Stephen Carter writes, "Because the arguments on both sides carry such strong moral plausibility . …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revolt against 'Right-to-Die' Movement Critics Marshal Arguments against Doctor-Assisted Suicide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.