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Judge Upholds Tennessee law against assisted suicide

by | Sep 30, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy

Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy

On Tuesday Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy upheld Tennessee’s law prohibiting doctor-prescribed suicide, rejecting a challenge by a long-time political activist.

McCoy said John Jay Hooker and his attorneys “do not have standing to bring this action.” She wrote

“The aid-in-dying prescription involves a script for a lethal dose of medication to cause quick death, not to provide palliative care to relieve physical pain and discomfort, as is allowed. …”If the physicians intend to provide lethal drugs to end their patients’ lives, they engage in criminal conduct.”

Hooker, who is taking an experimental drug for his terminal cancer, responded, “It is a sad day for the rule of law, and that the judge has claimed that I and others who have a terminal illness don’t have legal standing to raise the question about the right of the state to determine whether or not you can take your own life.” He added, “The fact is, that’s an error.”

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, which filed a friend- of-the-court brief in John Jay Hooker v Herbert Slatery, said

“Chancellor McCoy is to be commended for refusing to enjoin laws duly enacted by the people and their elected officials and for recognizing that such statutes do not violate the Tennessee Constitution.’

“Terminally ill persons deserve full care and pain relief, not a prescription for an early death. Tennessee’s law strikes a careful and compassionate balance in ensuring that basic safeguards for human life are in place and honored.”

The Tennessean, the state’s largest newspaper, has filed stories clearly sympathetic to Hooker and the campaign to “decriminalize” assisted suicide. In the story filed Tuesday, Stacey Barchenger wrote

Last week, Hooker appeared in a wheelchair before the Davidson County Grand Jury. He presented his case, and asked the grand jury to request the state legislature to support his request to end his life with the help of a willing doctor.

The jury issued its report earlier this week. It showed support for aid-in-dying legislation.

“This Grand Jury overwhelmingly supports Mr. Hooker’s desire to have the laws of Tennessee amended to permit a severely ill patient to have OPTION to end his or her life, thus ending all the pain and suffering for the patient and his or her family,” the report reads.

Hooker said he has forwarded the grand jury’s report to the members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

In August the New Mexico Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that allowed assisted suicide.

In addition in recent months two California judges have upheld laws that protect people from assisted suicide [here and here].

However, the California legislature subsequently passed “The End of Life Options Bill” which would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to act, one way or the other.

Categories: Assisted Suicide