Additional Arguements Against Euthanasia - Consequences

Consequences of the Euthanasia Movement’s Goals

If the strategy of the euthanasia movement to legalize voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia should be successful in securing a “constitutional right to die” or a “redefinition of personhood,” what are the probable long-term consequences for American society?

Consequences of a Constitutional Right to Die

The Supreme Court abortion decisions granted women the right to abortion as a fundamental constitutional right under a “right to privacy.” Such a right is disputed by many constitutional law scholars, but as long as the decision is not reversed it is operative and serves as a precedent.

A number of state court decisions have used this same right to privacy as a precedent to declare the right to die, or the refusal of medical care, to be a fundamental right under the right to privacy.

In a 1973 Pennsylvania case, a patient in a state mental institution refused surgery for cancer. The state court ruled in her favor: “. . . The right to privacy includes the right to die which the state should not interfere with . . .”

In reviewing the case, Prof. Robert Byrn questioned the “court’s resort to the right of privacy” rather than the “traditional right of bodily self-determination which includes the right to refuse life-saving treatment in a non-emergency” (Byrn, Robert M., Fordham Law Review, October 1975.)

The New Jersey Supreme Court, in its Karen Quinlan decision, declared that the constitutional right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a patient’s decision to decline medical treatment under certain circumstances in much the same way as it is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision to terminate pregnancy. . . .”

The court cited as precedent the abortion decision of Roe v. Wade (Matter of Quinlan, 355, A2d at p. 663).

A Massachusetts state court in the Saikewicz case recognized that there was a constitutional right of privacy involved in decisions about medical care and that the non-competent patient had the same rights as the competent patient. The court allowed a mental patient’s guardian to refuse chemotherapy for leukemia on his behalf (Superintendent of Belchertown State School v. Saikewicz, 370 NE2d 417).

A New York State Appellate Court, in a case involving a Brother Fox who was on a respirator and in a coma, ruled that this non- competent patient had a right to refuse treatment (the respirator). The ruling was based on the “constitutional right of privacy” cited by the Supreme Court abortion decisions and that non-competent patients have the same constitutional right of privacy as competent patients (Matter of Eichner v. Dillon, March 27, 1980).

Fundamental U.S. Constitutional Rights

U.S. Constitutional rights can be fundamental or non-fundamental. Fundamental rights cannot be restricted unless there is a compelling state interest. The U.S. Supreme Court will strictly scrutinize any restriction of a fundamental U.S. constitutional right. If a future U.S. Supreme Court holds that the right to die is a fundamental right, every state will have unrestricted euthanasia on demand, in spite of contrary state laws, in the same way every state had unrestricted abortion on demand after Roe v. Wade.