Is doctor-assisted suicide a constitutional right? This summer the United States Supreme Court has agreed to review two federal court decisions which say that it is. There can be no question this decision will answer the question for the entire United States. The court's ruling will affect the statutes of 35 states and the judge-made law for several others that prohibit assisting suicide. The Supreme Court will address two federal appeals court decisions that claim to recognize a constitutional "liberty" to commit suicide with doctor-prescribed lethal drugs only for mentally competent adults who are terminally ill. Both lower courts used reasoning that would extend this constitutional "liberty" to children and mentally incapacitated adults as well. This is frightening! In other words these rulings provide a base for permitting doctor-assisted death for virtially anyone with a serious medical condition.
Pope John Paul ll recently confirmed as "doctrine based upon natural law and upon the written word of God" that euthanasia, including assisted suicide, is "a grave violation of the law of God." This doctrine was embodied in the secular law adopted by the United States from England, and it continues to be reflected in our statutes and judge-made law.
Every effort is being made to avoid such a Roe vs Wade of euthanasia. The Knights of Columbus with the National Cathlic Office for Persons With Disabilities have submitted a friend of the court brief to the Supreme Court describing the deadly consequences such a ruling would have on the poor and the vulnerable. A pro-life group that has specialized in stopping euthanasia, The National Legal Center is working to ensure that every issue is carefully addressed and to help attorneys prepare for oral arguments before the high court.
It is hoped that the Supreme Court will choose to simply find there is no constitutional right to hasten death. Then state bans on assisted suicide would be safe from federal courts. All levels of goverment would be free to enforce laws against euthanasia without fear that some "right" in the U.S. Constitution would be violated.
Whatever decision the court reaches this summer will mark an almost apoocalypic watershed. The next Millenium may begin ominously indeed as euthanasia joins abortion as a common constitutionally protected practice. Or it may begin with a high court decision that arrests the advance of the culture of death.
God bless you!