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Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die


Although the issues of assisted suicide and the right to die have made headlines for over 20 years, these ideas are not new. In the ancient civilization of Rome, suicide was not punishable if "it was caused by impatience of pain or sickness, or by weariness of life . . . lunacy, or fear of dishonor." Irrational suicide was punishable by the emperor's seizure of all of the victim's property, disinheriting the heirs. The Romans' philosophy was "To live nobly also means to die nobly and at the right time." By the mid-twentieth century, technological advances kept terminally ill and vegetative patients alive longer than ever before. These patients previously would have died quickly from an inability to eat and drink and other complications. But advances in medical science brought right to die issues into the lives of many dying patients and their families. Doctors, patients and families were forced to make decisions about when life should end.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesAssisted Suicide and the Right to Die - History, An Ethical Dilemma, Eight Representative Cases, Refusal Of Treatment, Further Readings