Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Nelson Lund


In Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, the Supreme Court refused to create a constitutional right to assisted suicide, but apparently left Congress and the states wide discretion to experiment with new legislation. For the moment, most jurisdictions seem inclined to preserve the traditional legal prohibitions against this practice. Deeper forces in our society, however, may soon push us toward accepting assisted suicide, and much harsher forms of hastened dying as well.

This Article presents two distinct but related arguments. Part I argues that legalizing assisted suicide, whether through judicial or legislative action, would be a mistake because the harms produced by such a step would likely outweigh the benefits. Part H suggests that the most important goals of the laws against assisted suicide may be threatened far more profoundly by seemingly unrelated developments in the practice and financing of medical care. The Article concludes by suggesting that the serious attention should be given to reforms that would reestablish a more direct economic relationship between patients and physicians.