Episode Overview (02:32)
This episode of “The Constitution: That Delicate Balance” examines the right to abortion, euthanasia, and the right to make decisions regarding medical treatment. “Courts and legislatures have been forced to look beyond the natural boundaries of life and death to confront unsettling legal and ethical choices,” host Fred Friendly says.
Right to Refuse Treatment (12:35)
Moderator Arthur Miller describes a hypothetical scenario in which a devoutly religious 18-year-old is admitted to the hospital with severe head trauma; he is going to die without a transfusion. The panel highlights ethical and constitutional issues involved in providing that transfusion without the patient’s consent or against stated wishes (i.e. religious objections.)
To Prolong or Terminate Life (08:02)
The patient has slipped into an irreversible coma in Miller’s scenario and will suffer permanent brain damage. Who should decide whether to keep the patient alive or disconnect him from his respirator in this scenario?
Ethics of Euthanasia (11:04)
Miller now describes the patient as competent but terminally ill. He is in great pain and says he wants to die. Can a doctor legally or ethically help a patient end his or her own life? Can the state sanction the taking of life under any circumstances?
Do We Have a Right to Die? (01:41)
Many see the right to die as an extension of Americans’ right to privacy, which legal scholars say is protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Retired Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart disagrees, referring to the rulings in Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade as being very narrow.
Reproductive Rights (11:25)
The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman’s right to have an abortion extends from her right to privacy. But under what circumstances can the state intervene when it comes to reproductive rights?
Who Decides for Children? (05:17)
A woman his given birth, but her child has birth defects that can be corrected with surgery. However, she and her husband will not give consent for treatment. Who has the right to decide for the child in this scenario? Does withholding treatment constitute abuse?
When Does Life Begin? (02:15)
Retired Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart discusses the legal definition (or lack thereof) of when life begins; siding with the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, that a woman has a limited right to terminate pregnancy; and the constitutional rights of infants.
Credits: Right to Live, Right to Die (01:42)
Credits: Right to Live, Right to Die
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