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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Judge Neil Gorsuch on assisted suicide and euthanasia

Judge Neil Gorsuch, moments ago nominated to serve on the Supreme Court, has written extensively on assisted suicide and euthanasia. His writings will encourage those who value protecting individuals at the end of life from the pressures that can arise by legalizing these deadly practices:
  • "[I]t is the physician’s assessment of the patient’s quality of life as ‘degrading’ or ‘deteriorating’ or ‘hopeless’ that stands as the ultimate justification for killing.”

-- Neil M. Gorsuch, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, p. 111.
  • "Helen was a breast cancer patient in her mid-eighties when the Oregon law went into effect. Helen’s regular physician refused to assist in her suicide; a second doctor was consulted but also refused, on the stated ground that Helen was depressed. At that point, Helen’s husband called Compassion in Dying. The medical director of the group spoke with Helen and later explained that Helen was “frustrated and crying because she felt powerless.” Helen was not, however, bed-ridden or in great pain…. The Compassion in Dying employee recommended a physician to Helen. That physician, in turn, referred Helen to a specialist (whose specialty is unknown), as well as to a psychiatrist who met Helen only once. A lethal prescription was then supplied."

--Gorsuch, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, p. 124.
  • "[I]t is also rather remarkable that, while physicians in Oregon are held to a standard of professional competence in administering all other treatments they provide, the Oregon assisted suicide statute creates an entirely different regime when it comes to administering this 'treatment,' specifically and uniquely immunizing doctors from criminal prosecution, civil liability, or even professional discipline for any actions they take in assisting a suicide, as long as they act in 'good faith.' Thus, while a doctor may be found liable for mere negligence in any other operation or procedure, there is no recourse for family members when a doctor kills a patient even on the basis of gross negligence by misdiagnosing the patient as terminal or by misassessing the patient as competent."

-- Gorsuch, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, p. 119.
  • “How does it serve the putative goal of autonomous patient decision making to set up a regime that allows peo-ple to commit suicide without considering wheth-er they are, in fact, acting freely, competently, and autonomously at the time of suicide?”

-- Gorsuch, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, p. 180.
  • "Many jurisdictions have expressly reconsidered these laws [against assisting suicide and euthanasia] in recent years and reaffirmed them.  In 1980, the American Law Institute conducted a thorough review of state laws on assist[ed] suicide in the United States and acknowledged the continuing widespread support for criminalization. Accordingly, it endorsed two criminal provisions of its own. In the 1990s, both New York and Michigan convened blue-ribbon commissions to consider the possibility of legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia.  The New York commission issued a thoughtful and detailed report unanimously recommending the retention of existing laws against assisting suicide and euthanasia.  The Michigan panel divided on the issue, but the state legislature subsequently chose to enact a statute strengthening its existing common law ban against assisted suicide.  .  .  . Meanwhile, repeated efforts to legalize the practice—in state legislatures and by popular referenda—have met with near-total failure."

--Neil M. Gorsuch, The Right to Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, 23 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 599, 639-41 (2000).

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