Brigham Young University Prelaw Review


Euthanasia, Law, Terminally ill


Many people are fearful that if they become terminally ill, they will end up on life support, trapped from malting their own decision to live or die. As a result of this fear, proponents of active euthanasia, or mercy killings, are increasing. One proponent of active euthanasia, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, has taken the idea of mercy killings to new extremes. During the past three years, he has assisted in the suicide deaths of fifteen terminally ill patients (Reuters 1993, 6[A]). Others, who believe that mercy killings are wrong, favor passive euthanasia. They believe the terminally ill should have the right to die, or the right to be removed from life support systems which unnecessarily prolong the patient's life. The legal battle to allow passive euthanasia has been complex. Fortunately for anyone who may become terminally ill, Congress recently passed the Patient Self-Determination Act. This act allows patients to write advance directives. Advance directives, or "living wills," give patients the right to decline life support in the event of terminal illness. This new law provides a moral and ethical alternative to mercy killings.

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