There are medical, legal, and ethical distinctions between directing the cessation of life-sustaining medical care or treatment, and directing the initiation of medical technique or treatment that accelerates the onset of death. In all but less than a handful of states, “patient rights” do not include the right to choose euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide, and these remain patently illegal. In those few states that permit such initiatives, it is imperative that individuals seek legal counsel prior to committing to such a directive, so that they can fully appreciate the ramifications of their decision upon such factors as life insurance benefits exclusions, health care insurance coverage, the right to change their minds, the possibility of failed initiatives, religious considerations, etc.
In the 1997 U. S. Supreme Court case of Washington v. Glucksberg, 117 S. Ct. 2258, the nation’s highest court concluded that the “right to die” is not a constitutional right, and that a person’s right to assistance in committing suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The Court cited a state’s legitimate government interest in prohibiting intentional killing and preserving human life, among other stated interests. States are, therefore, free to enact laws that treat such assisted suicides as crimes.