Homicide - Euthanasia And Physician-assisted Suicide
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Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide
The killing of oneself is a suicide, not a homicide. If a person kills another person in order to end the other person's pain or suffering, the killing is considered a homicide. It does not matter if the other person is about to die or is terminally ill just prior to being killed; the law generally views such a killing as criminal. Thus, a "mercy killing," or act of EUTHANASIA, is generally considered a criminal homicide.
As medical technology advances and the medical profession is able to prolong life for many terminally ill patients, a person's right to die by committing suicide with the help of a physician or others has become a hotly contested issue. In the 1990s, the issue of physician-assisted suicide came to the forefront of U.S. law. Dr. JACK KEVORKIAN, a Michigan physician, helped approximately 130 patients to commit suicide. Michigan authorities prosecuted Kevorkian for murder on a number of occasions, but because aiding, assisting, or causing a suicide is generally considered to be separate from homicide, Kevorkian initially avoided conviction. Finally, in 1999, he was convicted of second-degree murder following the nationally televised broadcast of a videotape showing Kevorkian injecting a lethal drug into a patient. In 2000, the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE revealed a study showing that 75 percent of the 69 Kevorkian-assisted deaths that were investigated were of victims who were not suffering from a potentially fatal disease; five had no discernible disease at all. Instead, it appeared that many of the suicides were the result of depression or psychiatric disorder.
As of early 2003, only one state (Oregon) permitted physician-assisted suicide. However, at that time, similar laws had been introduced in Arizona, Hawaii, and Vermont. U.S. Attorney General JOHN ASHCROFT sought a DECLARATORY JUDGMENT that prescribing federally controlled drugs for the purpose of assisting suicide was not legitimate medical practice. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was expected to render a decision in the matter later that year.