Samuel Alito Discusses Euthanasia, Terri Schiavo Case in Senate Hearings

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 12, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Samuel Alito Discusses Euthanasia, Terri Schiavo Case in Senate Hearings Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 12, 2006

Washington, DC ( — During the third day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, pro-abortion Sen. Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat, asked Alito about his views on end of life issues and the case of Terri Schiavo.

Judge Alito seemed to agree with a measure Congress approved asking a federal judge to re-examine the decision of state courts — which agreed with a judge who gave Terri Schiavo’s estranged husband Michael the ability to take her life.

"There’s a constitutional issue, certainly, at the bottom of that, and there are issues of jurisdiction. There are statutory issues," Alito explained.

"Congress can give us a role in decisions of this nature or Congress can keep the federal courts out of it and leave it to the state courts where, for the most part, issues in this area have been adjudicated," he added.

Alito went on to describe the two Supreme Court cases that are regarded as the legal precedents on end of life issues.

IN the Cruzan case, Alito said they court held "that there is a constitutional right to refuse medical treatment that a person doesn’t want." He explained that the Supreme Court did not think requirements to be fulfilled before a person can be taken off life support violated that right.

"And then in Washington v. Glucksberg, they addressed the issue of whether there was a constitutional right to assisted suicide, and they concluded that there was not," Alito added.

Judge Alito said that end of life cases about issues such as euthanasia and assisted suicide will continue to come up and come up more frequently with an aging population and advances in medicine.

"And this is obviously one of the most sensitive issues that comes up in our legal system. It involves something that a lot of people have had to face and a lot more people are going to have to face, decisions involving the end of life," he explained.

"And with the advances in medical technology, this is going to be a very tough issue for an awful lot of people," he concluded.

Feinstein opened her questioning with an error by claiming that Terri Schiavo was removed from life support. Terri was never on life support during the years of legal battles between her estranged husband and her parents and family.

Terri had a feeding tube allowing her nutrition and Michael refused to allow new testing to determine whether she could eat or drink on her own.

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Terri Schiavo’s parents –