Brittany Maynard, a 29-year old with stage 4 Glioblastoma multiforme (a malignant brain tumor), who launched a campaign with Compassion & Choices to raise awareness about Death with Dignity laws and who plans to take lethal medication prescribed by her doctors in Oregon on Nov. 1, 2014, stated the following in an Oct. 6, 2014 People magazine article, available at www.people.com:
"There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die. I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease but there's not... My glioblastoma is going to kill me, and that's out of my control. I've discussed with many experts how I would die from it, and it's a terrible, terrible way to die. Being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying... Right now it's a choice that's only available to some Americans, which is really unethical... The amount of sacrifice and change my family had to go through in order to get me legal access to Death with Dignity--changing our residency [from California to Oregon], establishing a team of doctors, having a place to live--was profound... There's tons of Americans who don't have time or the ability or finances [to move to a legal state] and I don't think that's right or fair... I believe this choice is ethical, and what makes it ethical is it is a choice. The patient can change their mind up to the last minute. I feel very protected here in Oregon."
Desmond Tutu, ThM, South African Anglican Archbishop Emeritus, in a July 12, 2014 Guardian article, "Desmond Tutu: A Dignified Death Is Our Right – I Am in Favour of Assisted Dying," stated:
"We need to revisit our own South African laws which are not aligned to a constitution that espouses the human right to dignity. On our own soil Craig Schonegevel, after 28 years of struggling with neurofibromatosis, decided his quality of life was too poor. He'd had so many surgical procedures the thought of enduring more was unbearable. He could find no legal assistance to help him die. On the night of 1 September 2009, he swallowed 12 sleeping pills, put two plastic bags over his head tied with elastic bands and was found dead by his parents the next morning. Craig wanted to end his life legally assisted, listening to his favourite music and in the embrace of his beloved parents, Patsy and Neville. Our legal system denied him and his family this dignity…
I revere the sanctity of life – but not at any cost. I confirm I don't want my life prolonged. I can see I would probably incline towards the quality of life argument, whereas others will be more comfortable with palliative care. Yes, I think a lot of people would be upset if I said I wanted assisted dying. I would say I wouldn't mind actually."
Michael Irwin, MPH, MD, former Medical Director at the United Nations and current Coordinator of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS), in an Aug. 19, 2013 Mirror article, "Euthanasia: The Right to Die Should Be a Matter of Personal Choice," stated:
"The right to die should be a matter of personal choice.
We are able to choose all kinds of things in life from who we marry to what kind of work we do and I think when one comes to the end of one's life, whether you have a terminal illness or whether you're elderly, you should have a choice about what happens to you...
I’m pro life - I want to live as long as I possibly can, but l also believe the law should be changed to let anyone with some severe medical condition which is causing unbearable symptoms to have an assisted suicide. I wouldn't want to be unnecessarily kept alive against my own will."
Stephen Hawking, PhD, cosmologist and theoretical physicist, in a Sep. 17, 2013 interview with the BBC, available at www.bbc.com, stated:
"I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives and those that help them should be free from prosecution. We don’t let animals suffer, so why humans?"
Marcia Angell, MD, Senior Lecturer in Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and former Editor-in-Chief of New England Journal of Medicine, in an Oct. 11, 2012 New York Review of Books article, "May Doctors Help You to Die?," wrote:
"I have long favored legalizing physician-assisted dying for terminally ill patients whose suffering cannot be relieved in any other way, and I was the first of the original fourteen petitioners to put the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act on the ballot in November. In 1997, as executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, when the issue was before the US Supreme Court, I wrote an editorial favoring it, and told the story of my father, who shot himself rather than endure a protracted death from metastatic cancer of the prostate.
It seems to me that, as with opposition based on whether the physician is 'active,' the argument that physicians should be only 'healers' focuses too much on the physician, and not enough on the patient. When healing is no longer possible, when death is imminent and patients find their suffering unbearable, then the physician’s role should shift from healing to relieving suffering in accord with the patient’s wishes. Still, no physician should have to comply with a request to assist a terminally ill patient to die, just as no patient should be coerced into making such a request. It must be a choice for both patient and physician."
Jasper Emmering, MD, research physician, in a June 9, 2007 email to ProCon.org, stated:
"I support legal euthanasia for a number of reasons. First comes the principle of sovereignty of the individual over his own body. Then there is a practical matter: the moral distinction between abstaining from life-saving treatment, palliative sedation and euthanasia is very murky, for me it doesn't exist at all. Therefore it makes no sense that the first two are legal while the third is not."
Helene Starks, MPH, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History and Ethics at the University of Washington at Seattle, in a Jan. 5, 2007 email to ProCon.org, stated:
"I believe that physician-assisted suicide should be legalized because that allows for more scrutiny and application of the safeguards. The practice is happening regardless of the legal status; keeping it illegal has the potential to cause more harm than good as it restricts access to knowledgeable social services and health care providers who may help patients and families explore other options to achieving a good death, leaving PAS [physician-assisted suicide] as truly an option of last resort."
Margaret P. Battin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Utah, and Timothy E. Quill, MD, Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Medical Humanities at the University of Rochester, in their 2004 book Physician-Assisted Dying: The Case for Palliative Care & Patient Choice, stated:
"We firmly believe that physician-assisted death should be one--not the only one, but one--of the last-resort options available to a patient facing a hard death. We agree that these options should include high dose pain medication if needed, cessation of life-sustaining therapy, voluntary cessation of eating and drinking, and terminal sedation. We also believe, however, that physician-assisted dying, whether it is called physician-assisted death or physician aid in dying or physician-assisted suicide, should be among the options available to paients at the end of life."
Faye Girsh, EdD, Senior Adviser at the Final Exit Network, in a Winter 2001 Free Inquiry article, "How Shall We Die," stated:
"At the Hemlock Society we get calls daily from desperate people who are looking for someone like Jack Kevorkian to end their lives which have lost all quality... Americans should enjoy a right guaranteed in the European Declaration of Human Rights--the right not to be forced to suffer. It should be considered as much of a crime to make someone live who with justification does not wish to continue as it is to take life without consent."
Peter Rogatz, MD, MPH, Vice President of Compassion and Choices of New York, in a Nov.-Dec. 2001 Humanist article, "The Positive Virtues of Physician-Assisted Suicide: Physician-Assisted Suicide is Among the Most Hotly Debated Bioethical Issues of Our Time," stated:
"Physician-assisted suicide isn't about physicians becoming killers. It's about patients whose suffering we can't relieve and about not turning away from them when they ask for help. Will there be physicians who feel they can't do this? Of course, and they shouldn't be obliged to. But if other physicians consider it merciful to help such patients by merely writing a prescription, it is unreasonable to place them in jeopardy of criminal prosecution, loss of license, or other penalty for doing so."
Philip Nitschke, MBBS, PhD, Director and Founder of Exit International, in a June 5, 2001 National Review Online interview, "Euthanasia Sets Sail," stated:
"My personal position is that if we believe that there is a right to life, then we must accept that people have a right to dispose of that life whenever they want... I do not believe that telling people they have a right to life while denying them the means, manner, or information necessary for them to give this life away has any ethical consistency."
Frances M. Kamm, PhD, Lucius Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, in a 1998 article, "Physician-Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia, and Intending Death," published in Physician-Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate, stated:
"We have constructed a three-step argument for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia: Assuming patient consent, 1) we may permissibly cause death as a side effect if it relieves pain, because sometimes death is a lesser evil and pain relief a greater good; 2) we may permissibly intend other lesser evils to the patient, for the sake of her greater good; 3) therefore, when death is a lesser evil, it is sometimes permissible for us to intend death in order to stop pain. Call this the Three-Step Argument."
Patrick Hopkins, PhD, Professor of Philosophy at Millsaps College, in a May 1, 1997 Hastings Center Report article, "Why Does Removing Machines Count as 'Passive' Euthanasia?," stated :
"[I]f we are cruel in refusing to let nature free patients from the trap of technology, we are both cruel and conceptually blind when we refuse to let technology free patients from the trap of nature... When we remove machines playing these functional roles from hurting and hopeless patients, we kill those 'trapped by technology.' But this is not a bad thing. It is bad when we refuse to grant people trapped by nature the same benefit."
Michael White, JD, Member of the Board of Directors at the Death With Dignity National Center, in an Apr. 22, 1997 speech, "Should Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Legalized?," at the Fred Friendly Seminar, available at www.thirteen.org, stated:
"Physician-assisted suicide should be a lawful medical procedure for competent, terminally ill adults, because it is a compassionate response to relieve the suffering of dying patients."
The American Civil Liberties Union stated in its Oct. 1996 amicus brief in Vacco v. Quill that:
"The right of a competent, terminally ill person to avoid excruciating pain and embrace a timely and dignified death bears the sanction of history and is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. The exercise of this right is as central to personal autonomy and bodily integrity as rights safeguarded by this Court's decisions relating to marriage, family relationships, procreation, contraception, child rearing and the refusal or termination of life-saving medical treatment. In particular, this Court's recent decisions concerning the right to refuse medical treatment and the right to abortion instruct that a mentally competent, terminally ill person has a protected liberty interest in choosing to end intolerable suffering by bringing about his or her own death.
A state's categorical ban on physician assistance to suicide -- as applied to competent, terminally ill patients who wish to avoid unendurable pain and hasten inevitable death -- substantially interferes with this protected liberty interest and cannot be sustained."
Martin Gold, JD, Partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, in a Oct. 1996 "Brief of Amicus Curiae Bioethicists Supporting Respondents," for Vacco v. Quill and Washington v. Glucksberg, stated
"[P]hysicians, in carrying out their ethical duty to relieve the pain and suffering of their terminally-ill patients, should be legally permitted to accede to the desire of a patient to hasten death when the patient's decision is voluntarily reached, a patient is competent to make the decision, and the patient has been fully informed of the diagnosis and prognosis of an incurable, fatal disease which has progressed to the final stages...
The right to physician-assisted suicide should be recognized by this Court as a fundamental right... Moreover, the amicus group agrees with the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Quill that the denial of physician-assisted suicide is a denial of equal protection to terminally-ill patients who do not have the option of hastening death by requesting the removal of life support systems."
Barbara Coombs Lee, JD, President of Compassion and Choices, in an Apr. 29, 1996 testimony before the US House Subcommittee On The Constitution concerning the legality of assisted suicide, available at www.gos.sbc.edu, stated:
"The problem is that medical science has conquered the gentle and peaceful deaths and left the humiliating and agonizing to run their relentless downhill course. The suffering of these individuals is not trivial and it is not addressed by anything medical science has to offer. Faced with this dilemma, the problem for many is that the law turns loving families into criminals. It separates loved ones at the end, when it is most important to be close. It encourages patients to choose violent and premature deaths while they still have the strength to act. And it forces some to suffer through a slow and agonizing death that contradicts the very meaning and fabric of their lives...
When we know that certain rare and desperate cases call for a compassionate response in the form of assisted death our democratic heritage demands that the law be consistent with that knowledge."
Jack Kevorkian, MD, a retired pathologist known as 'Dr. Death' who aided over 130 people in ending their lives, in a 1990 interview with Cornerstone magazine, stated:
"I believe there are people who are healthy and mentally competent enough to decide on suicide. People who are not depressed. Everyone has a right for suicide, because a person has a right to determine what will or will not be done to his body. There’s no place for people to turn today who really want to commit suicide. Teenagers, and the elderly especially, have nowhere to turn. But when they come to me, they will obey what I say because they know they're talking to an honest doctor."
The Death With Dignity National Center, on its site "About Death With Dignity," available at www.deathwithdignity.org (accessed Jan. 21, 2009), stated
"The greatest human freedom is to live, and die, according to one's own desires and beliefs. The most common desire among those with a terminal illness is to die with some measure of dignity. From advance directives to physician-assisted dying, death with dignity is a movement to provide options for the dying to control their own end-of-life care."
The Family Research Council on its "Human Life and Bioethics" page, available at www.frc.org (accessed Aug. 13, 2014), stated:
"Disabling diseases and injuries, including those for which there is a terminal diagnosis, are tragic. However, there is no such thing as a life not worth living. Every life holds promise, even if disadvantaged by developmental disability, injury, disease, or advanced aging. FRC believes that every human life has inherent dignity, and that it is unethical to deliberately end the life of a suffering person (euthanasia), or assist or enable another person to end their life (assisted suicide)... True compassion means finding ways to ease suffering and provide care for each person, while maintaining the individual's life and dignity."
Margaret Somerville, LLB, DCL, Law and Medicine Professor and Founding Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics, and Law at McGill University, in her Feb. 14, 2014 Globe and Mail article, "Why Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Must Remain Legally Prohibited," stated:
"Whatever one’s views in that regard, respect for life (a preferable term to sanctity of life to avoid religious connotations and associations) is not just a religious value, it’s a foundational value of all societies in which reasonable people would want to live, as the Charter of Rights recognizes. It is foundational to what German philosopher Jurgen Habermas calls 'the ethics of the [human] species' and I call 'human ethics', which must guide secular societies such as Canada...
Those who see all humans as having dignity just because they are human, believe that respect for life requires that we do not intentionally kill another human being or help them to kill themselves, which means that euthanasia and assisted suicide must remain legally prohibited."
Wesley Smith, JD, Senior Fellow at the Discover Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism and legal consultant to the Patients Right Council, in an Oct. 13, 2011 Noozhawk article, "Wesley Smith: Assisted Suicide Is the Euthanasia of Hope," stated:
"If we legalize assisted suicide, some patients will die instead of ultimately regaining their joy in living.
For some reason, this message doesn't resonate as vividly as the siren song of doctor-prescribed death. But know this: If we are seduced into legalizing assisted suicide, we will cheat at least some people out of the universe's most precious and irreplaceable commodity: Time.
Assisted suicide isn't 'choice;' it is the end of all choices. Doctor prescribed death is not 'death with dignity;' it is really the euthanasia of hope."
Peter Kavanagh, LLB, Australian politician and former member of the Victorian Legislative Council, in a Nov. 13, 2010 News Weekly article, "Opinion: Why We Should Not Legalize Euthanasia," available at www.newsweekly.com.au, stated:
"Legalising euthanasia would have a wide range of profoundly detrimental effects. It would diminish the protection offered to the lives of all. It would allow the killing of people who do not genuinely volunteer to be killed, and any safeguards, although initially observed, would inevitably weaken over time.
There would be other long-term consequences of legalising euthanasia that we cannot yet envisage. We can be sure that these consequences would be pernicious, however, because they would emanate from an initiative which, while nobly motivated, is wrong in principle - attempting to deal with the problems of human beings by killing them."
The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, in its "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Frequently Asked Questions," available at www.internationaltaskforce.org (accessed Jan. 21, 2009), stated:
"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.
Laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are in place to prevent abuse and to protect people from unscrupulous doctors and others. They are not, and never have been, intended to make anyone suffer."
Courtney S. Campbell, PhD, Professor of Ethics, Science, and the Environment in the Department of Philosophy at Oregon State University, in a May 16, 2007 email to ProCon.org, stated:
"I am opposed to the legalization of voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients as administered by physicians (it goes without saying I would opposed involuntary euthanasia as well). While I respect and advocate for patients to have control and dignity in dying, it is contrary to the vocation of medicine to intentionally hasten or cause death. In all cases (medical or non-medical), taking human life should be a last resort, and until our society has given appropriate attention to pain control, hospice care, and advance directive, we will not have met the criteria of last resort with respect to legalized euthanasia. I accept refusal or non-treatment of patients with terminal conditions wherein the underlying cause of death is a disease or organic pathology."
William Burke, MD, PhD, Professor at Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center, in a Jan. 4, 2007 email to ProCon.org, stated:
"In many states it is now legal to euthanize disabled persons by starvation and dehydration without any evidence of their wishes based on the 'best interest' form of substituted judgement... In my view this is not only murder it is torturing a person to death. Why do state and Federal law allow this barbaric behaviour?"
Daniel Callahan, PhD, Director of International Programs at the Hastings Center, in his 2004 book The Case Against Assisted Suicide: For the Right to End-of-Life Care, stated:
"This path to peaceful dying rests on the illusion that a society can safely put in the hands of physicians the power directly and deliberately to take life, euthanasia, or to assist patients in taking their own life, physician-assisted suicide... It threatens to add still another sad chapter to an already sorry human history of giving one person the liberty to take the life of another. It perpetuates and pushes to an extreme the very ideology of control--the goal of mastering life and death--that created the problems of modern medicine in the first place. Instead of changing the medicine that generates the problem of an intolerable death (which, in almost all cases, good palliative medicine could do), allowing physicians to kill or provide the means to take one's own life simply treats the symptoms, all the while reinforcing, and driving us more deeply into, an ideology of control."
The American College of Physicians stated the following in its Aug. 7, 2001 Annals of Internal Medicine position paper, "Physician-Assisted Suicide," stated:
"The American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP–ASIM) does not support the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. The routine practice of physician-assisted suicide raises serious ethical and other concerns. Legalization would undermine the patient–physician relationship and the trust necessary to sustain it; alter the medical profession’s role in society; and endanger the value our society places on life, especially on the lives of disabled, incompetent, and vulnerable individuals. The ACP–ASIM remains thoroughly committed to improving care for patients at the end of life."
Michael Manning, MD, author and former medical practitioner, in his 1998 book Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Killing or Caring?, stated:
"I believe the evidence leads to the conclusion that we must not legalize euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Instead, our society should mobilize a life-giving health care system that includes compassionate care for the dying, adequate analgesia and human comforts near the end of life, and widespread education about the right to refuse burdensome medical care."
Stefan Bernard Baumrin, PhD, JD, Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York, in his 1998 chapter "Physician, Stay Thy Hand!," in the book Physician Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate, stated:
"Doctors must not engage in assisting suicide. They are inheritors of a valuable tradition that inspires public trust. None should be even partly responsible for the erosion of that trust. Nothing that is remotely beneficial to some particular patient in extremis is worth the damage that will be created by the perception that physicians sometimes aid and even abet people in taking their own lives."
Sissela Bok, PhD, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, in the 1998 article "Physician-Assisted Suicide," in the book Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: For and Against, stated:
"I continue to find great and needless risks in moving toward legalizing euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. I also remain convinced that such measures will not deal in any way adequately with the needs of most persons at the end of life, least of all in societies without adequate health care insurance available to all. No society has yet worked out the hardest questions of how to help those patients who desire to die, without endangering others who do not. There is a long way to go before we arrive at a social resolution of those questions that does not do damage to our institutions."
The American Medical Association (AMA) in a June 1996 article "Decisions Near the End of Life," available at www.ama-assn.org, stated
"It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress--such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness--may come to decide that death is preferable to life. However, permitting physicians to engage in euthanasia would ultimately cause more harm than good. Euthanasia is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.
The involvement of physicians in euthanasia heightens the significance of its ethical prohibition. The physician who performs euthanasia assumes unique responsibility for the act of ending the patient's life. Euthanasia could also readily be extended to incompetent patients and other vulnerable populations."
[Editor's Note: As of Aug, 15, 2014, the AMA has not updated it's CON position on euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide]
The Islamic Medical Association stated the following in a May 13, 1996 article "Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide," available at www.islam-usa.com:
"The IMA [Islamic Medical Association] endorses the stand that there is no place for euthanasia in medical management, under whatever name or form (e.g., mercy killing, suicide, assisted suicide, the right to die, the duty to die, etc.). Nor does it believe in the concept of a willful and free consent in this area. The mere existence of euthanasia as a legal and legitimate option is already pressure enough on the patient, who would correctly or incorrectly, read in the eyes of his/her family the silent appeal to go."
Robert Beezer, LLB, Judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in his 1996 dissenting opinion in Compassion in Dying v. Washington, stated:
"Constitutional protection for a right to assisted suicide might spawn pressure on the elderly and infirm--but still happily alive--to 'die and get out of the way.' Also at risk are the poor and minorities, who have been shown to suffer more pain (i.e. they receive less treatment for their pain) than other groups... Further, like the elderly and infirm, they, as well as the handicapped, are at risk of being unwanted and subjected to pressure to choose physician-assisted suicide rather than continued treatment...
The poor, the elderly, the disabled and minorities are all at risk from undue pressure to commit physician-assisted suicide, either through direct pressure or through inadequate treatment of their pain and suffering. They cannot be adequately protected by procedural safeguards, if the Dutch experience is any indication. The only way to achieve adequate protection for these groups is to maintain a bright-line rule against physician-assisted suicide."
The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, in its 1994 book When Death Is Sought: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context, stated:
"American society has never sanctioned assisted suicide or mercy killing. We believe that the practices would be profoundly dangerous for large segments of the population, especially in light of the widespread failure of American medicine to treat pain adequately or to diagnose and treat depression in many cases. The risks would extend to all individuals who are ill. They would be most severe for those whose autonomy and well-being are already compromised by poverty, lack of access to good medical care, or membership in a stigmatized social group. The risks of legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia for these individuals, in a health care system and society that cannot effectively protect against the impact of inadequate resources and ingrained social disadvantage, are likely to be extraordinary."
Diane Coleman, JD, Founder and President of Not Dead Yet, in an article, "Assisted Suicide and Disability," available at www.dredf.org (accessed Aug. 13, 2014), stated:
"Assisted suicide has been marketed to the American public as a step toward increasing individual freedom, but choice is an empty slogan in a world full of pressures on people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Now is not the time to establish a public policy securing the profits of a health care system that abandons those most in need and would bury the evidence of their crime."
Leon Kass, MD, PhD, Addie Clark Harding Professor at the University of Chicago, in a Winter 1989 Public Interest article "Neither for Love nor Money: Why Doctors Must Not Kill," stated:
"The prohibition against killing patients... stands as the first promise of self-restraint sworn to in the Hippocratic Oath, as medicine's primary taboo: 'I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect'... In forswearing the giving of poison when asked for it, the Hippocratic physician rejects the view that the patient's choice for death can make killing him right. For the physician, at least, human life in living bodies commands respect and reverence--by its very nature."
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its Sep. 12, 1991 article "Statement on Euthanasia," posted on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, stated:
"As Catholic leaders and moral teachers, we believe that life is the most basic gift of a loving God--a gift over which we have stewardship but not absolute dominion. Our tradition, declaring a moral obligation to care for our own life and health and to seek such care from others, recognizes that we are not morally obligated to use all available medical procedures in every set of circumstances. But that tradition clearly and strongly affirms that as a responsible steward of life one must never directly intend to cause one's own death, or the death of an innocent victim, by action or omission...
We call on Catholics, and on all persons of good will, to reject proposals to legalize euthanasia."