Monday, September 13, 2021

California euthanasia court case - a further analysis.

"There is no right to assisted suicide, the court must reject euthanasia."

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanaisa Prevention Coalition

On August 30 I published an article about a California court case that would permit euthanasia within the California assisted suicide regime. The case argues that some people who are approved for assisted suicide are unable to self-administer the lethal drugs, therefore, based on equality, the court needs to approve euthanasia (doctor administered death) in these cases.

The California court needs to reject this challenge to the state assisted suicide law based on:

1. There is no right to assisted suicide, therefore there is no legal requirement to amend the perceived inequality within the state assisted suicide law.

2. The Supreme Court, in Glucksberg, recognized that there is no right to assisted suicide and it recognized that one state interests in prohibiting assisted suicide was the prevention of euthanasia. This court case specifically seeks to permit euthanasia.

3. Permitting euthanasia is not an extension of the state assisted suicide law but rather it requires the court to legislate a new law, that being legalizing euthanasia, which is a form of homicide.
Lisa Krieger for the Bay Area News reported that the case involves Sandy Morris, who is living with ALS, and challenging the California assisted suicide law based on it being discriminatory towards people with disabilities.

According to Krieger due to the degenerative effects of ALS, Morris may not be capable of self-administering the lethal drug cocktail. Krieger reported:
Doctors who help the terminally ill confront a legal dilemma: Disability law mandates assistance and equal access to health care, while the aid-in-dying law mandates the opposite.
As already stated, the case argues that in the circumstance where the person who is approved for assisted suicide cannot self-administer the lethal drug cocktail that the doctor should be permitted to administer these drugs (euthanasia).

Assisted suicide activist, Kathryn Tucker, is the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs and Lonny Shavelson is a plaintiff. After California legalized assisted suicide, Shavelson turned his attention full-time to assisting suicides.

This case makes several false and critical assumptions, such as:
  • there is a right to assisted suicide in California and 
  • assisted suicide and euthanasia are (legally) the same.

Legally, assisted suicide is a form of suicide where the law requires the person to "self-administer" a lethal drug cocktail with the assistance of a "medical professional." Euthanasia is a form of homicide whereby the "medical professional" lethally injects the person with a lethal drug cocktail. 

There are similarities between assisted suicide and euthanasia but legally they are different.

Therefore the assisted death lobby is not asking a California court to extend the assisted suicide law but rather they are asking the court to legislate an exception to homicide.

The other issue is more nuanced. To require the California law to equally apply to people who requested and approved for assisted suicide assumes that there is a right to assisted suicide. According to the Supreme Court Glucksberg decision (1997) there is no right to assisted suicide (Link).

Glucksberg also recognized that there were at least five legitimate reasons why the state had an interest in prohibiting assisted suicide. One of those reasons was the prevention of euthanasia. As stated in Gluckberg:

These interests include prohibiting intentional killing and preserving human life; preventing the serious public-health problem of suicide, especially among the young, the elderly, and those suffering from untreated pain or from depression or other mental disorders; protecting the medical profession's integrity and ethics and maintaining physicians' role as their patients' healers; protecting the poor, the elderly, disabled persons, the terminally ill, and persons in other vulnerable groups from indifference, prejudice, and psychological and financial pressure to end their lives; and avoiding a possible slide towards voluntary and perhaps even involuntary euthanasia.

In Glucksberg, the Supreme Court recognized that creating a right to assisted suicide, which it rejected, could lead to permitting euthanasia.

The California case is not surprising. It is well known that the assisted death lobby considers the legalization of assisted suicide as a stepping stone to the legalization of euthanasia. The Supreme Court, in Glucksberg, recognized that legalizing euthanasia is a much broader license which would prove extremely difficult to police and contain.

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