[JURIST] An 84-year old attorney, businessman and political candidate filed a lawsuit in a Tennessee court on Wednesday, challenging a law that makes it a felony for a doctor or another person helps someone commit suicide. John Jay Hooker, who once ran for Tennessee governor and worked for Robert F. Kennedy, said the law violates the state constitution [AP report], specifically the pursuit of happiness. Hooker has terminal cancer, and hopes to fight for the issue in the state legislature. House Minority leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) is sponsoring the bill.
The right to die [JURIST news archive] has been a contentious issue in the US and around the world. In January California lawmakers introduced [JURIST report] a bill [SB 128, PDF] to permit patients who meet specific criteria the right to medically end their lives. In February the Supreme Court of Canada struck down [JURIST report] the country’s ban on medically assisted suicide. Also that month a group of patients and doctors filed a lawsuit in a New York court requesting a declaration [JURIST report] that physician-assisted suicide is not illegal under New York state law. In 2006 the US Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act [JURIST report], making Oregon the only US state that allowed assisted suicide at that time. Vermont, Washington, New Mexico and Montana now also allow assisted suicide. Possibly the most contentious right to die case ended in 2005, when Terri Schiavo [JURIST op-ed] passed away following a heated legal battle between family members on whether to artificially maintain her life in a vegetative state.