The Lethal Flaws of the Ninth and Second Circuit
Susan R. Martyn
& Henry J. Bourguignon
|In Spring, 1996, the Ninth and Second
Circuits were the first circuit courts in the
country to find a constitutional prohibition
against laws which make physician-assisted
suicide a crime. These landmark decisions held
that a competent adult suffering from a terminal
illness could voluntarily seek the assistance of
a physician in obtaining relief through suicide.
This Essay argues that the law generated by these
decisions is misguided and dangerous, as their
effect is to displace the well-established line
between killing and letting die. The authors
argue that the new line drawn by the Ninth and
Second Circuits is both untenable and dangerous,
concluding that the line opens the door to
involuntary euthanasia. The courts' reliance upon
different clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment
suggests that neither could find a definite,
irrefutable constitutional basis for their
decision. Instead of proposing and defending a
new analysis of the constitutionality of
physician-assisted suicide, the authors engage in
a philosophical, moral and pragmatic discussion
to establish that there are many compelling
reasons to maintain the traditional line between
killing and letting die.
© 1997 by California Law Review, Inc.
California Law Review, Inc. (CLR) is a California
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