Copyright (c) 1997 St. John's University
St. John's Journal of Legal Commentary
SYMPOSIUM: PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE: LEGAL RIGHTS IN LIFE AND DEATH*: SPEAKERS: INTRODUCTORY REMARKS OF PANEL I: THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DIE: ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
* This issue contains the remarks of an on-campus symposium held at St. John's University School of Law on April 4, 1997 in Jamaica, New York. The editorial board would like to extend its warmest appreciation to Dean Rudolph C. Hasl, Claire Moore Dickerson, and all of the St. John's faculty and distinguished speakers who participated in this event. The editors extend their gratitude to Paul Ciraulo and all of the St. John's administrators without whom this event would not have been possible. A copy of the transcript from each session is available, upon request, from the office of the St. John's Journal of Legal Commentary.
12 St. John's J.L. Comm. 599
Professor Lawrence Gostin*
Thank you. I should begin by mentioning my conflicts of interest. Not only did I co-author one of the amicus briefs before the Supreme Court, 1 but I have also been writing with Timothy Quill and others in support of physician-assisted suicide dying. 2 I believe that constitutional law really cannot be separated from the morals and ethics involved in this discussion. 3 Consequently, I will address three primary areas.
First, I am going to look at some ethical reasoning supporting physician-assisted dying. Second, I will examine some of the lines that have been drawn between withdrawing and withholding life sustaining treatment 4 on the one hand and physician-assisted dying on the other. 5 Finally, I will relate both of these matters to constitutional reasoning beginning with Cruzan 6 and ending with the cases currently before the Supreme Court. 7
Let us begin with a discussion at the ethical level by looking at some of the principles that might help guide us through our inquiries. We need to remind ourselves that we do not need to be judges, lawyers or law professors to understand this issue. This is an issue that exists at the deepest human level, and involves a far reaching social debate which involves us all. 8 We will all face this issue whether we are young, old, male, female, healthy, sick. Therefore, we have to try to understand what kinds of ethical principles might guide this kind of fundamentally important decision in all of our ...
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