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For more than a decade, there has been an intense debate about the ethics and legality of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in the United States.1-5 In June 1997, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that there is neither a constitutional right nor a constitutional prohibition to euthanasia or PAS.6,7 This permitted Oregon to experiment with legalizing PAS. During this decade, most other states have consistently opposed legalization.
In the weeks after the US Supreme Court decision, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled that there is no constitutional right to PAS.8 At least 7 state legislatures have voted to explicitly prohibit euthanasia and PAS.9 Indeed, a bill to legalize euthanasia or PAS has been considered by a full chamber of a state legislature in only one state, Maine, and that bill was defeated 99 to 42.10
In November 1998, 70% of the voters of Michigan resoundingly defeated a referendum to legalize PAS, while in November 2000 Maine voters also rejected legalizing PAS.11