The concept behind right to die is generally understood as the right of a human being to end his or her life or submit to voluntary euthanasia. Possession of this right is often understood that a person with a terminal illness, incurable pain, or without the will to continue living, should be allowed to end their own life, use assisted suicide, or to decline life-prolonging treatment. The question of who, if anyone, may be empowered to make this decision is often the subject of debate. Religious views on suicide vary from the Hindu and Jain practices of non-violent suicide through fasting (Prayopavesa and Santhara, respectively) to considering it a grave sin, as in Catholicism. Let’s learn more on this with the help of this article.
In the United States of America, the right to die is called as “assisted suicide” – it is where one person assists another person in dying. This could be medically done or self – administered. “The term is often used interchangeably with physician-assisted suicide (PAS), “physician-assisted dying”, “physician-assisted death”, “assisted death” and “medical aid in dying” (MAiD).Assisted suicide is similar to but distinct from euthanasia (sometimes called “mercy killing”). In cases of euthanasia, another party acts to bring about the person’s death in order to end ongoing suffering. In cases of assisted suicide, a second person provides the means through which the individual is able to voluntarily end their own life, but they do not directly cause the individual’s death.”
There are eleven jurisdictions where Physician-assisted suicide, or “medical aid in dying” is legal, they are:
- District of Columbia,
- New Jersey,
- New Mexico,
- Vermont, and
“These laws (excluding Montana since there is no law) expressly state that “actions taken in accordance with [the Act] shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing or homicide, under the law”. This distinguishes the legal act of “medical aid in dying” from the act of helping someone die by suicide, which is prohibited by statute in 42 states and prohibited by common law in an additional six states and the District of Columbia. A 2018 poll by Gallup displayed that a solid majority of Americans, with 72 percent in favor, support laws allowing patients to seek the assistance of a physician in ending their life. Nevertheless, assisted suicide remains illegal in a majority of states across the nation. In 2022, the state of Oregon ruled it unconstitutional to refuse assisted suicide to people from other states who are willing to travel to Oregon to die that way, effectively giving out of state residents the opportunity to die by physician-assisted suicide. Before someone travels to Oregon to die by physician assisted suicide, those helping the patient travel to Oregon might be prosecuted for assisting a suicide. After the barbiturates are acquired, if the patient returns to their home state, those assisting with mixing the fatal dose of barbiturates may be prosecuted for assisting a suicide.”
One should know that euthanasia is different from assisted suicide. “Euthanasia is more commonly performed on sick or injured animals, as euthanasia for humans is illegal in the majority of the United States. As of June 2021, the only jurisdictions that allow this procedure are Oregon, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Washington, Maine, Colorado, New Jersey, California, and Vermont. Euthanasia can be voluntary or non-voluntary. In voluntary cases, the person consents to the ending of their life. In a non-voluntary case, the person is unable to consent to the decision, so the decision is made by a guardian. For example, a person in a coma who is unable to make a decision on whether to remove themselves from life support, would need a guardian to make the decision to end their life.”
“The District of Columbia has become the latest jurisdiction in the United States to pass a bill to allow patients with terminal illnesses to end their lives with physician assistance. The district follows Colorado, which passed a right-to-die law on Nov. 8. Both measures permit assisted death to anyone over 18 who is terminally ill and estimated to have less than six months to live. Patients must be considered competent to make the decision and have to voluntarily ask for the service.”
In the case of Washington Vs. Glucksberg, “Dr. Harold Glucksberg — along with four other physicians, three terminally ill patients who have since died, and a nonprofit organization that counsels individuals contemplating physician assisted-suicide — brought this suit challenging the state of Washington’s ban on physician assisted-suicide. The State of Washington has historically criminalized the promotion of suicide attempts by those who “knowingly cause or aid another person to attempt suicide.” Glucksberg alleged that Washington’s ban was unconstitutional. Following a District Court ruling favoring Glucksberg and his fellow petitioners, the Ninth Circuit affirmed, and the Supreme Court granted Washington certiorari.” In addition to this, In the year 2001, “following the enactment of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, Attorney General John Ashcroft declared that physician-assisted suicide violated the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, and threatened to revoke the medical licenses of physicians who were involved in the practice. But the Supreme Court, in the 2006 case of Gonzales v. Oregon, determined that the Act does not allow the U.S. Attorney General to declare the medical practice illegitimate, as the practice was allowed under state law and had doctors prescribing regulated drugs. Therefore, Oregon’s law was upheld.”
Right to die has been subjected to constant controversies and a full-blown debate. Thinking about the morality of it all, it seems only cruel to let someone live a painful life, a life someone is not capable of leading on their own. However, this also adds some sort of ethical factor on the same because this would also equate to murder and allowing the same does not make much sense. What are your views? Let us know on the comment section!
 Assisted suicide in the United States - Wikipedia  Ibid.  euthanasia | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)  Assisted death gaining acceptance in US - PMC (nih.gov) (5) Washington v. Glucksberg | Oyez (6) Does the Constitution protect a ‘right to die’? | Constitution Center