United States Constitution

PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution



End of Life

Substantive Due Process Important Cases
A person has a constitutional right to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment or nourishment; but a person does not have a constitutional right to more active physician assisted suicide.This line was drawn between two Supreme Court cases, Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990) and Washington v. Glucksberg (1997).In Cruzan, the Court upheld a Missouri statute requiring heightened evidence to show that family members of a person on life support would want to discontinue that life support. This evidentiary issue is tangential, however, to the Court having made plain that the state can choose its own standards when it comes to following the directives of family making end of life decisions for the patient. But if it had been "the patient herself," she would have the right to make her own choices whether or not to continue this treatment. In Glucksberg, the Court also upheld a Washington statute that outlawed physician assisted suicide, denying the existence of a fundamental right for even the patient herself to be free to choose such treatment (it is also worth noting that the State of Washington later repealed this statute in favor of another statute legalizing physician assisted suicide). It is thus the space between these two cases that controls when a government can regulate end of life decisions and when a government cannot. Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990) Washington v. Glucksberg (1997)
Equal Protection Important Cases
Attempts to have the right to physician assisted suicide recognized using the Equal Protection clause have also failed in the Court. In Vacco v. Quill, New York physicians and terminally ill patients challenged the constitutionality of New York law that made physician assisted suicide illegal. The Court upheld the law under a rational basis test, stating that there was no such right and that the law rationally furthered state interests in preserving life, protecting the vulnerable, preventing suicide, and maintaining the role of physicians as healers. Vaco v. Quill