Dying With Dignity: A Look at the Right To Die

July 30, 2018

*These posts are presented for entertainment purposes and are not intended to provide legal advice. Consult with a lawyer for legal advice.


Choosing death in the face of a terminal illness might well be the last vestige of control a patient can exercise over an indiscriminate disease like cancer.  Advocates of the right to choose to die believe strongly that surviving with a terminal illness is not the same thing as living. Indeed, with the kind of aggressiveness that describes that disease, right-to-die advocates are making a play for broad-based dignity laws one state at a time, though with seemingly little gain so far.


While often used interchangeably, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are not the same thing legally. For example, in some instances, a state will allow physician-assisted suicide (PAS) but not euthanasia. Euthanasia involves more proactive assistance from physicians or others while in PAS scenarios, the physician makes lethal options available to the patient to be utilized at the time of the patient's choosing.



Image courtesy of Wix.com


Globally, the United States seems on pace with the rest of the world on the issue of euthanasia and PAS.  For example, at present it appears that like the United States, only about a handful of countries allow or have allowed euthanasia or PAS.


Currently, there are seven states that allow death with dignity under statute. Montana seems to be allowing death with dignity following a court decision. About half of the remaining states are considering the issue of dying with dignity  while the rest seem content to table the issue for now. Not surprisingly, in some cases, death with dignity bills have been presented before the legislature numerous times. For example, the issue has been presented to the Massachusetts legislature by bill at least eight times with still no law in the state.


Interestingly, though the pace has been slow by states, it appears that more than 70% of Americans actually support euthanasia, compared to the 37% that supported the issue when it was first polled in 1947 by Gallup.


But what exactly does it all mean that more Americans than ever are supporting euthanasia? For one thing, Americans continue to ask the question how do we balance the support for euthanasia against the increased demands put on doctors and healthcare providers to extend life? Weighing in, opponents also ask wether the right to die might just create a business of death, whereby pharmaceutical companies become  discouraged from pursuing advancement in medicines that cure or reduce suffering in lieu of drugs that allow benevolent death. Whatever side of the discussion you are on, it is clear that the issue remains complicated for many despite the majority support.


*These posts are presented for entertainment purposes and are not intended to provide legal advice. Consult with a lawyer for legal advice.

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