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Hastings Law Journal

Authors

Julia Pugliese

Abstract

The United States Supreme Court recently acknowledged that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses a patient's right to refuse medical treatment. The Court has been reluctant, however, to extend this right to encompass physician-assisted suicide. This Note argues that legalization of physician-assisted suicide is the next logical step in granting freedom and personal autonomy for suffering, terminally ill patients. However, because of the need for specific guidelines the proper forum for this issue is not the Supreme Court, but state legislatures.

The Note begins by examining the reality that assisted suicide presently occurs in an unregulated environment and posits that the frequency of assisted suicide will rise with technological advances in medicine. It then explores current legal, medical, and public views about physician-assisted suicide, and concludes that these groups are receptive to the limited legalization of physician- assisted suicide. The Note also surveys failed attempts at legalization of physician-assisted suicide and examines legalized physician-assisted suicide in the Netherlands. Finally, the author concludes with a proposal that draws from the most useful elements of the Netherlands legislation and previously proposed American legislation to create a cohesive procedure for physician- assisted suicide.

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