“Every life is different from any that has gone before it, and so is every death.”1 Although advancements in technology and healthcare have saved and prolonged countless lives, there is one part of humanity that can never be fully cured: death. Death is not what it used to be—it is no longer normally a common, family communal, or even religious event.2 Modern dying takes place in a hospital while attached to machines that attempt to prolong life but seem to simultaneously take patients further and further away from dying with dignity. As these technologies that prolong life evolve, so do those that seek to ease one’s transition to death. Physician-assisted suicide3 is a solution supported by a growing number to provide patients a choice to reclaim dignity over their death rather than waiting for their bodies to succumb to looming and debilitating terminal illnesses.4 Diagnoses of terminal illnesses skyrocketed in the last century.5 The inevitability of death at the hands of terminal illnesses—which can result in a drawn out and painful death—inspires the desire in some to request they take matters into their own hands.6 In the United States during the 1990s, physician-assisted suicide became a hot-button issue as some physicians began publicly administering lifeending prescriptions and doses of carbon monoxide, as requested by terminally ill patients, in order to avoid their pre-death suffering and hasten their passing.7 However, at the time, nearly every jurisdiction in the United States had statutes in place that outlawed the assistance of suicide, and many bans persist today.8 After the United States Supreme Court declared that terminally ill patients have the right to decline life-saving or prolonging treatment under the United States Constitution in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, the question became: Does the right to die include physician-assisted suicide?9 This question was subsequently answered by the United States Supreme Court a few years later in Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill.10 Although the Court held that physician-assisted suicide is not a constitutionally protected liberty interest under the United States Constitution, the Court left the door open for the states to make individual determinations as to whether physician-assisted suicide should be made legal under their respective state constitutions.11
PHYSICIAN AID IN DYING: Physician-Assisted Suicide as a Constitutionally Protected Liberty Interest Under the Nebraska Constitution,
101 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol101/iss3/6