A Right to Die?

In 1983, 26-year-old Elizabeth Bouvia, who lived with almost total paralysis from cerebral palsy and near-constant pain from arthritis, presented herself for admission to Riverside General Hospital. In years past, and despite her physical problems, Bouvia had earned a degree in social work, married, and lived independently. However, after her efforts to have children failed, her husband left her, and the state stopped paying for her special transportation needs, she lost interest in living. Her purpose in coming to the hospital, she told the hospital staff soon after her admission, was to obtain basic nursing care and pain-killing medication while starving herself to death, cutting short what might otherwise have been a normal life span. The hospital’s doctors took her case to court and won the right to force-feed her. The court concluded that although Bouvia did have the right to commit suicide, she did not have the right to force health care workers to engage in passive euthanasia by allowing her to die through their inaction.

In 1990, Janet Adkins, 54 years old and living with Alzheimer’s disease, killed herself with the assistance of Dr. Jack Kevorkian—a process known as physician-assisted death. Kevorkian had designed a machine that allowed people with severe disabilities to give themselves a fatal dose of sodium pentothal and potassium in the privacy and freedom of their homes. Over the next decade, Kevorkian helped more than 100 people kill themselves without facing any legal penalties. In 1999, however, he was convicted of second-degree homicide and sentenced to 10 years to 25 years in prison for committing active voluntary euthanasia: taking the steps needed to end the life of someone who has requested that he or she be killed. In Adkins’s case, Kevorkian administered a lethal injection to rather than have Adkins administer the dose herself. Kevorkian was released from prison in 2007 on the condition that he not assist in any further deaths.

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
A Right to Die?
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, doctors legally can practice active voluntary euthanasia for patients who request it in writing and who are mentally competent, incurably ill, and suffering intolerable and constant pain. Similar laws have been passed recently in a few U.S. states.

Those who support a “right to die” argue that competent adults have the right to make decisions for themselves, including the ultimate decision of when to die. They argue that death sometimes can be a rational choice and that it’s cruel to force individuals to suffer extreme physical or mental anguis


and taste our undisputed quality.