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Physician Assisted Suicide Unconstitutional

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Prolife News
October 1995

Federal Judge Michael Hogan ruled that Ballot Measure 16, adapted by a small majority of Oregon voters in November 1994, violates the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The state of Oregon appealed this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals, which earlier ruled that there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide.

Depression, a remedial condition, is the leading cause of suicide. The court found that Ballot Measure 16 did not equally protect such terminally ill persons.

Other problems with Ballot Measure 16 according to the courts, are:

  • That a physician without psychiatric training is relied upon to screen patients whose judgment is impaired by depression,
  • That “there is no independent oversight for the decision and implementation of an assisted suicide request by medical professionals, i.e., review by a probate court, as there is with civil commitment,”
  • That physicians assisting patients to kill themselves need only meet a “good faith” standard of care in diagnosing a patient as terminally ill and prescribing a lethal substance, while physicians in other contexts are held to the “highest standard of medical care.”

Even if these “constitutional flaws” are removed, the court appears to hold that Measure 16, state sanctioning of assisted suicide, is unconstitutional. Judge Hogan stated, “it is noteworthy that the Declaration of Independence refers to life as ‘inalienable,’ presumably a benefit that cannot be easily waived or forfeited.” The court stated, “tort law and criminal law have never recognized a right to let others enslave you, mutilate you, or kill you, even with your consent.”