Should the Government Be Involved in Patients' End-of-Life Decision-Making?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Orange Country Register wrote in its Apr. 1, 2005 article "Legacy For Life and Death Schiavo Case Likely to Affect End-of-Life Discussions - At Home, in Church and in Government":

"The Schiavo case has underscored the nation's deep distaste for what many regard as overbearing government intrusion, various polls show.

Eighty-two percent of respondents to a CBS News poll last week said Congress and the president should stay out of such matters.

In a poll on the Schiavo question conducted by Fox News last year, just 1 in 50 said the decision to keep a patient alive should be made by the government.

While lawmakers say this case was an exception, they disagree on government's role."

Apr. 1, 2005 - The Orange County Register 



PRO (yes)

Not Dead Yet research analyst Stephen Drake wrote in a Nov. 22, 2003 Special for the Reno Gazette-Journal, entitled "End of Life Planning: Q & A with Disabilities Advocate":

"Cases like Schiavo's touch on basic constitutional rights, such as the right to live and the right to due process, and consequently there could very well be a legitimate role for the federal government to play. There's a precedent--as a result of the highly publicized deaths of infants with disabilities in the 1980s, the federal government enacted 'Baby Doe Legislation,' which would withhold federal funds from hospitals that withhold lifesaving treatment from newborns based on the expectation of disability. The medical community has to have restrictions on what it may do to people with disabilities--we've already seen what some members of that community are willing to do when no restrictions are in place."

Nov. 22, 2003 - Not Dead Yet 



The International Task Force on Euthanasia wrote in the "FAQs" section of its website, (accessed Aug. 8, 2006):

"Does the government have the right to make people suffer?

Absolutely not. Likewise, the government should not have the right to give one group of people (e.g. doctors) the power to kill another group of people (e.g. their patients). Activists often claim that laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are government mandated suffering. But this claim would be similar to saying that laws against selling contaminated food are government mandated starvation...

But shouldn't people have the right to commit suicide?

...Euthanasia and assisted suicide are not private acts. Rather, they involve one person facilitating the death of another. This is a matter of very public concern since it can lead to tremendous abuse, exploitation and erosion of care for the most vulnerable people among us. "

Aug. 8, 2006 - Patients Rights Council 



Wesley Smith, JD, Anti-Euthanasia Activist, argued in a May 25, 2006 testimonial before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Consitution, Civil Rights, & Property Rights:

"I appear today to argue that there is a proper public policy role for the federal government against assisted suicide, such as prohibiting federally controlled substances from being used to intentionally end life, and in the application of other government policies consistent with the standards of federalism. This would be in keeping with existing federal government policy that already prohibits federal money from being used to fund assisted suicide under the Medicaid program. "

May 25, 2006 - Wesley J. Smith, JD 



CON (no)

The Los Angeles Times stated in a Mar. 22, 2005 editorial titled "Planning for Worse Than Taxes":

"We'll all die. But in an age of increased longevity and medical advances, death can be suspended, sometimes indefinitely, and no longer slips in according to its own immutable timetable.

So, for both patients and their loved ones, real decisions are demanded: When do we stop doing all that we can do? When do we withhold which therapies and allow nature to take its course? When are we, through our own indecision and fears of mortality, allowing wondrous medical methods to perversely prolong the dying rather than the living?

These intensely personal and socially expensive decisions should not be left to governments, judges or legislators better attuned to highway funding."

Mar. 22, 2005 - Los Angeles Times 



Diane E. Meier, MD, Director of the Center to Advance Pallative Care, told The New York Times in an Apr. 1, 2005 article, "Schiavo's Case May Reshape American Law":

"I am concerned about the erosion of a very hard-won multiple-decade process of agreeing that these [end-of-life] decisions belong inside families... I think that is at risk."

Apr. 1, 2005 - Diane Meier, MD 



The American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Rights Project Director Elisabeth Benjamin stated in a Mar. 29, 2006 press release titled "NYCLU Urges Legislature to Let Families Make Medical Decisions for Incapacitated Patients":

"Our current law bars an incapacitated patient's loved ones from making medical decisions on her behalf... Disregarding a family's wishes can delay a patient's treatment, compromising her well-being and adding significantly to the cost of her care. Alternatively, it can put her at risk of being subjected to burdensome, highly invasive, and extended medical treatment that violates her wishes, values or religious beliefs. It's time for the legislature to put an end to this wrong by passing a law that empowers family members to refuse or advocate for life-sustaining treatment."

Mar. 29, 2006 - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 



Charlie Crist, the Attorney General of Florida, was quoted in an Apr. 20, 2006 article titled "Attorney General Says Bush Had Schiavo Case Wrong," published in the AZ Republican:

"I am pro-life and I respect life.. There are some decisions that ought to be left to God and family... Had I been governor, I would not have done the same thing [as Jeb Bush]... These kinds of end-of-life matters do not belong in government."

Apr. 20, 2006 - Charlie Crist, JD