Professor Lewis Presents at UNESCO 11th World Bioethics Conference in Naples, Italy

On October 22, 2015, Browne Lewis, Leon M. and Gloria Plevin Professor of Law, chaired a  panel and presented at the UNESCO 11th World Bioethics, Medical Ethics, and Health Law Conference in Naples, Italy. Professor Lewis’ presentation was entitled “Disposal People: Physician-Assisted Suicide and Vulnerable Patients.” First, Professor Lewis gave a brief history of the right to die movement in the United States and compared that with what is happening in the rest of the world.  Then, she discussed the current legal landscape of physician-assisted suicide in the United States.  Presently, physician-assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and California.  It is specifically illegal in Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, North Dakota and Rhode Island.  The law in New Mexico is in limbo because the New Mexico Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case on the issue on October 26, 2015.  The final part of Professor Lewis’ presentation focused upon the impact the legalization of physician-assisted suicide may have on terminally ill patients who are elderly, physically disabled, mental ill, low-income and of color. With the exception of California, all of the states that have legalized physician-assisted suicide are predominately white and upper-middle class.  Since California is the first racially and economically diverse state to make physician-assisted suicide legal, it will be a good test case to see if there are adequate safeguards in place to protect terminally ill patients who are vulnerable in some other way.

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