Medical Ethics

Fast Facts

Assisted Suicide

  • Euthanasia is the direct killing of a person, usually by injecting a lethal substance.
  • Euthanasia is prohibited in all 50 states under homicide laws.
  • Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands with or without the consent of the patient. Guidelines have been adopted to allow the killing of newborns with disabilities. Euthanasia is legal in Belgium and Luxembourg.
  • Assisted suicide involves one person providing the means and instructions to help another person commit suicide.
  • Most states have laws which prohibit assisted suicide.
  • Attempts to legalize assisted suicide with ballot measures have been defeated in five states.

Stem Cells

  • Human embryonic stem cells are only obtained by killing the human embryo. Embryonic stem cell research is opposed because a human life must be destroyed.
  • Because embryonic stem cells grow uncontrollably they are considered to be dangerous to a patient.
  • Scientists in Madison, WI and Japan recently programmed ordinary human skin cells into becoming cells which act like embryonic stem cells. There is no loss of human life using this process.
  • Adult stem cells are found virtually anywhere on a person’s body. Adult stem cell research is universally supported because no one has to be killed to retrieve the cells.

New York State
Task Force Report

Thorough and Thoughtful Arguments Against the Legalization of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

Court Cases

Landmark Decisions

Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997).

 In January 1994, Dr. Harold Glucksberg and three other doctors, three terminally ill patients, and an organization called Compassion in Dying filed suit in federal court for a declaration that Washington State’s assisted suicide ban was unconstitutional as applied to terminally ill, mentally competent adults…

Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793 (1997).

 Dr. Timothy Quill, along with two other physicians and three terminally ill persons, challenged the assisted suicide ban in New York State. They alleged it violated the due-process liberty and equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that New York’s prohibition on assisting suicide does not violate…

iPS Cell Research

The end of the stem cell debate?

In what is regarded as a major scientific breakthrough, scientists in Wisconsin and Japan reported in late 2007 that they were able to coax ordinary skin cells into becoming pluripotent stem cells — cells that have the potential to become any cell or tissue in the body. Pluripotent is the quality in embryonic stem cells that scientists believe is valuable for treating diseases and conditions.

These new cells are called iPS cells (induced Pluripotent Stem Cells). No living human beings had to be destroyed to achieve this discovery which is revolutionizing the entire area of stem cell research.

This process has been replicated by many research labs all over the world. To be certain, the ethical controversy over destruction of human embryos has been minimized, if not completely mitigated, by this discovery.

Stem Cell Research Laws

Guidelines and Policies

Wisconsin Stem Cell Policy

Wisconsin has a law which informs a pregnant woman that for research purposes she can donate cord blood normally discarded after the birth of her baby.

President Bush’s Embryonic Stem Cell Policy

In August of 2001, President Bush established a federal policy on embryonic stem cell research. You are probably confused and believed, as many did, that President Bush cut off federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

The facts are that the Bush policy allowed federal funds to be used for research on existing stem cell lines derived from embryos that had already been destroyed before August of 2001. The policy did not allow federal funds to be used to destroy more living human embryos…

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