Endings and Beginnings: Law, Medicine, and Society in Assisted Life and Death

By Larry I. Palmer | Go to book overview

whose pain cannot be "managed" is the question the Court leaves unanswered.


NOTES
1.
Neil K. Komesar, Imperfect Alternatives: Choosing Institutions in Law, Economics, and Public Policy ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 43.
2.
Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702.
3.
Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793.
4.
See Glucksberg, 521 U.S. at 728 (state's interest in the life of its citizens); Ibid., 728-30 (state's interest in treating the causes of suicide); Ibid., 730 (state's interest in the integrity of the medical profession); Ibid., 731 (state's interest in protecting vulnerable groups); Ibid., 731-32 (state's interest in preventing the "slippery slope" to euthanasia). Justice O'Connor agreed with the "vulnerable groups" and "slippery slope" bases, 521 U.S. 736. Justice Stevens agreed with the "preserving life" basis, 521 U.S. 738 and the "vulnerable groups" basis, while mentioning the majority's reliance on the "medical integrity" basis, 521 U.S. 748- 50. Justice Souter agreed with the "slippery slope" basis, 521 U.S. 782-85. Justice Breyer did not mention any of Rehnquist's interests, but considered the lack of infringement of a right to palliative care dispositive. See 521 U.S. 789.
5.
The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced that prescribing medication to assist a patient's death under Oregon's Death With Dignity Act would be in violation of its interpretation of federal narcotics law, which requires a "medical purpose" for every prescription. See Steven Findlay "DEA Challenges Oregon Doctors; Narcotics Law to Be Used Against Assisted Suicide," USA Today, November 11, 1997. The attorney general announced shortly thereafter that federal statute should not be interpreted to apply to physicians in Oregon. "Statement of Attorney General Reno on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act," Press Release, June 5, 1998. Available: www.usdog.gov/opa/pr/1998/ june/259ag.htm.html cited June 10, 1998.
6.
At the state level, the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law has been influential in shaping that state's law regarding the ethical issues associated with medicine. The New York task force report, When Death Is Sought: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context ( 1994), not only recommended no change in New York statutes regarding assisted suicide, but was relied upon by the United States Supreme Court in upholding the constitutionality of those statutes. See Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793 ( 1997). At the national level, over the past twenty-five years we have grown accustomed to legal bodies or officials asking blue ribbon panels to make recommendations about public and legal responses to ethical dilemmas in science and medicine. Public outcry in 1972, for instance, over the revelations of a forty-year study of untreated syphilis among rural African American males in Tuskegee was the precipitating event for Congress establishing the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. Since that time, several prominent commissions at both the federal and state levels have made recommendations on policy and legal matters. The most recent example of what Professor David Rothman has labeled "commissioning ethics" in his book, Strangers at the Bedside: AHistory of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making

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