British medical bulletin vol:52 issue:2 pages:341-353
This chapter describes some dominant trends of American and Canadian law in relation to treatment refusal, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Although common law in both countries recognizes the right of patients to refuse treatment, problems have arisen, especially in the US, over treatment refusal on behalf of incompetent patients. One response has been to enact advance-directive legislation, promoting the use of living wills and proxy appointments. Courts have also specified criteria for withholding and withdrawing treatment from incompetent patients. The notion of a 'right to die' developed in court cases on treatment refusal, is now being invoked to support the legalization of assisted suicide. Courts are generally reluctant to recognize an extention of this right Debates and court cases following the recent initiative to legalize assisted suicide in Oregon and the Sue Rodriguez case in Canada's Supreme Court which resulted in a special report of a Canadian Senate Committee, are of major importance for the development of law in this area.