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Euthanasia The Legal Aspect Another important area to consider while discussing the topic of euthanasia aside from ethics and the philosophical point of view is the legal aspect Does a person have a right to die Should the law allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives Is there a way to make one law pertaining to the topic of physician assisted suicide To answer these questions we must first distinguish between active and passive euthanasia Passive euthanasia involves the patients refusal of medical assistance It involves the right to die which is protected by the United States Constitution clauses of due process liberty and the right to privacy Fourteenth Amendment Active euthanasia or doctor - assisted suicide is defined as a patients right to authorize a physician to perform an act that intentionally results in the patients death without the physician being held civilly or criminally liable In the courts view passive and active euthanasia are two entirely different things The passive form of euthanasia was first deemed legal by the New Jersey State Supreme Court in the 1976 Quinlan case In the Quinlan case the court ruled that a competent patient has the right to terminate the use of life-sustaining medical machines Since New Jerseys decision all fifty states have enacted similar statutes which contain living will provisions As of yet there has been no Supreme Court ruling determining whether or not active euthanasia should be legalized The decision is thus left to the individual states Currently 31 states have criminalized the act of physician assisted suicide Physician assisted suicide is generally recognized as illegal under the parameters of homicide However because patients select to die their deaths end their suffering and there is no intention to cause harm physician assisted euthanasia cannot be considered murder Murder can be defined as an act of violence that is perpetrated against a victim For example a man stuffed into
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