"In Quinlan, the court wrote, "The only practical way to prevent destruction of the right is to permit the guardian and family of Quinlan to render their best judgment." They concluded that, "Quinlan's right of privacy may be asserted on her behalf by her guardian."  In Bludworth, the Florida Supreme Court stated that,"The primary concern of these cases is that this valuable right should not be lost because the noncognitive and vegetative condition of the patient prevents a conscious exercise of the choice to refuse further extraordinary treatment." In order to "ensure this right,"the court held that" the right of a patient, who is in an irreversibly comatose and essentially vegetative state to refuse extraordinary life-sustaining measures, may be exercised either by his or her close family members or by a guardian of the person of the patient appointed by the court (Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Legal Slippery Slope from Cancer Control: Journal of the Moffitt Cancer Center (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/409026_7)."
The basis for such decisions are founded in the following beliefs held by the court at the time of the ruling:
If a competent person has a basic personal right, then so does an incompetent person, incompetent persons lack the ability to exercise their rights, rights that cannot be exercised are extinguished, rights must be preserved, not extinguished, and to prevent rights from being extinguished, another person must exercise the incompetent person's right on his or her behalf (Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Legal Slippery Slope from Cancer Control: Journal of the Moffitt Cancer Center (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/409026_7)
When the patient has expressed previous wishes to have the right to die the case is much easier to decide. When a patient has no previous directive in place it is more complicated as the courts try and decide what the patient would want if they could speak and make the choice.
In England it has also been a heated debate that was triggered following a decision a patient's doctors made."1992 Dr. Cox openly defied the law and assented to 70-year-old Mrs. Boyes' persistent request for voluntary active euthanasia. Mrs. Boyes' was so ill that she "screamed like a dog" if anyone touched her. Conventional medicine did not relieve her agony. In her last days, when she repeatedly requested to die, Dr. Cox finally gave her an injection of potassium chloride, bestowing on her the boon of a peaceful death so many of us feel we are entitled to. Dr. Cox, although given a suspended sentence, was hauled through the courts like a common criminal (Cases in history (http://www.euthanasia.org/cases.html)."
The family stood behind the doctor and was grateful that their loved one no longer suffered. It is cases such as these, and the case of Quinlan that mandate an agreed upon standard be reached when it comes to the right to die (Cases in history (http://www.euthanasia.org/cases.html).
When it comes to a coma patient who has lain in a hospital for years there are not as many arguments about what should be done but a patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and wants to die to avoid the suffering the debates get very heated.
Sue Rodriguez, a mother in her early thirties, died slowly of Lou Gehrig's disease. She lived for several years with the knowledge that her muscles would, one by one, waste away until the day came when, fully conscious, she would choke to death. She begged the Courts to reassure her that a doctor would be allowed to assist her in choosing the moment of death. They refused. She lived on in terror, helped eventually by a doctor who, in February 1994, covertly broke the law to help her die in peace. A law on assisted suicide with rigorous safeguards could have saved her the nightmare during those months before her death, given her the confidence to carry on - with the reassurance that when it got too bad she could rely on a compassionate doctor to follow her wishes at the end (Cases in history (http://www.euthanasia.org/cases.html)."
It is cases such as these that have promoted nation and world wide debates as well as sparked the advent of various organizations such as Exit. Exit is an organization that was developed for the purpose of supporting people who believe in the right to die.
There have been cases in which a person has all of their mental capacities with them and they still wish to die. These are the cases that a right to die argument divides most strongly about. The right to die in a vegetative state is not usually argued at this point in history. Those who are terminally ill are still battling to get the right to die, and there have been many media and television shows focused on such patients. The outside perimeter of supported patients includes the patients who are not dying, are not in a coma but want to be able to choose to die.
Patients such as Ramon Sanpedro have worked their way through the court system for the right to die and in that quest have opened the doors for others to follow in their path (Cases in history (http://www.euthanasia.org/cases.html).Each time a case comes before a court, whether they win or lose, they loosen the restraints that came before them thereby making the path a little less crooked for the next hiker.
Ramon Sanpedro sought, through the courts, the assistance of a doctor to help him die with dignity. He was paralysed in Spain as a result of a swimming accident during his youth. He described himself as "a head attached to a corpse." He wrote: "Why die? Because every journey has its departure time and only the traveller has the privilege and the right to choose the last day to get out. Why to die? Because at times the journey of no return is the best path that reason can show us out of love and respect for life, so that life may have a dignified death (Cases in history (http://www.euthanasia.org/cases.html)."
Ramon Sanpedro made no suggestion as to what the wishes of others in a similar physical condition might be. In fact, some people who are so paralysed take enjoyment in life and want to go on living. Their choice should be respected and they should be given every support. But Ramon Sanpedro made his choice and choice should be respected (Cases in history (http://www.euthanasia.org/cases.html)."
The topic is a heated one in America as well. There are many who have become terminally ill, or permanently and totally disabled who do not wish to wait out the suffering that will occur if they cannot choose to die. The drain on their family financially is a consideration as is the amount of suffering their families will watch them go through otherwise.
The first U.S. Supreme Court Case in the right to die was the case of Nancy Cruzan who was in an accident and was in a coma for years. She reacted to pain and noise but her brain would never function again in the capacity that would allow any hope of a standard of living. "They said that Missouri had "arrogated to itself" the power to define life, and Nancy Cruzan's life and liberty consequently put into disquieting conflict. She had not made a living will, and the court case paved the way for a uniform, national Patient Self- Determination Act that regulated living wills and made them more widely available (Cases in history (http://www.euthanasia.org/cases.html)."
When it comes to cases such as these it is easy to argue that there is no life, will never again be a life and can never be a hope of a life. Though there are people who believe it is God's will to decide the time of death who will fight each and every right to die case the cases such as these at least have some measure of strength about them. The division becomes much wider when it comes to the right to die by terminally ill patients who are actively living and functioning at the time of their decision.
Those who are against right to die legislation being passed believe that patients such as these will be on a slippery slope that does not end. Guilt over the financial burden they have become to their family as well as the natural depression that a terminally ill patient often faces can influence their decisions in right to die questions according to those who are against it. Depression can be treated and self murder to save their family money is still murder according to the detractors of the right.
The concerned believe that the right to die, if allowed, will change into the right to kill to make it easier for those around the patient.
Robert Wendland should die so that his family can "be allowed to live their lives," Dr. Ronald Cranford, a Minnesota neurologist and bioethicist, testified recently in the Stockton courtroom of…