Do Americans have a constitutional right to die?
Ronald Dworkin 1
Much has been written recently on the subject of choice in dying: Who has the right to choose? Under what circumstances does another—physician, guardian, officer of the court—make that choice? And how will your choice affect me or my mother or my children? 2
Ronald Dworkin, professor of law at New York University and professor of jurisprudence at Oxford University, argues that there should be a constitutional right to die. In Life’s Dominion: An Argument about Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom, he suggests that the Court’s opinions on abortion and terminating medical care support his own belief that physicians and competent patients should be able to agree about the timing of the patient’s death. 3 He, along with five other “leading philosophers,” filed in the United States Supreme Court a brief in the physician-assisted suicide cases arguing that supposedly voluntary agreements would not undermine secular notions of the sacredness of human life necessary for the functioning of our complex democracy. They urged the Court to declare unconstitutional statutes making physicians’ assistance in this agreed-upon death a crime.
Despite the fact that the Supreme Court rejected the philosophers’ ar