Washington v. Glucksberg is a legal/medical case regarding end-of-life issues. A few questions that arose were about autonomy, dignity, legalities, privacy, personal rights versus constitutional rights, morality, and theology. It is about what is moral but not necessarily what is morality in a legal or constitutional sense. Smith (2008), purports in Michigan Law Review, that there is no clear instruction about the relation of law and morality in Washington v. Glucksberg or Vacco v. Quill (Glucksberg-Quill) this coming from the Supreme Court (p. 1574). If the Supreme Court cannot distinguish between what is legal and moral for society, then who would be up to the task? Is it up to healthcare providers, the family, or the patient? Who has the obligation to assert moral courage in end-of-life issues? Do patients not have the right to die without interference from the state and federal governments, physicians, and families? The right to die with dignity is an ethical issue for the individual and institutions. The following examines the difference between legal and moral issues regarding the debate in
Gengo (2011), notes the United States Congress in 1990, passed the Patient Self Determination Act (PSDA). This act provides (1) patients the right to accept or refuse treatment; (2) the opportunity to write advance directives which allows patients to state in advance the kinds of medical care that he or she considers acceptable or not acceptable; (3) does not discriminate; and (4) educates the staff and community about advance directives. This act defines a legal definition of patient rights. It also explains informed consent with risks and benefits, assent, documentation needed, surrogate decision making such as having a medical durable power of attorney or healthcare proxy, and default state specific laws. Given these laws, one wonders if there is a specific federal law for right to die or is this left to the states to debate. According to Chief Justice Rehnquist (1997), the opinion of the court declared that suicide does not offend the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, the states have conflicting laws. For instance, in Washington, it is a felony to assist in suicide, “a person is guilty of promoting a suicide attempt when he knowingly causes or aids another person to attempt suicide” Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.36.060(1) (1994). Washington also has the Natural Death Act of 1979, which states, “withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide” Wash. Rev. Code § 70.122.070(1).
Lachman (2009), describes that values are personal attributes and are our concepts, ideals, and themes that give meaning to our personal lives. Lachman goes on to describe our professional Codes of Ethics that stem from our values system and our moral character. However, these professional Codes of Ethics...