Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Anne Marie Su


In most states, patients with terminal, painful, and debilitating conditions have no means of ending their suffering except by waiting to die. As interest in physician assisted suicide began to grow in this country, the Supreme Court in a series of decisions expressed fear that recognition of a right to die would lead to abuses. For example, disability rights activists in particular argue that it would encourage burdened family members to pressure disabled persons to end their lives. Evidence from the two states that have legalized physician assisted suicide, however, should lay these fears to rest.

This note opens with a history of court decisions addressing a terminally ill patient's right to die and summarizes the concerns that courts and critics have raised. It then rebuts the critics' concerns with demographic data surrounding patients who have made use of Oregon's and Washington's statutes. Finally, the note reveals how the status quo in the nation at-large fails terminally ill persons from vulnerable groups, and lays out the implications of this failure.

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