Chancellor McCoy and the Way of Wisdom

September 30, 2015 • Posted in Blog

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A.

What does Tennessee have to do with Switzerland (featured in the fake ad pictured below)? Less than it could have, given yesterday’s decision to uphold the State of Tennessee’s ban on assisted suicide. The decision by Chancellor Carol L. McCoy has the rather counter-intuitive effect of the State winning without someone losing their head. Read on below for the details . . .

Fake ad about Switzerland, featured in Salvo Magazine

Fake ad image from Salvo, used with permission.

“If you can keep your head when all about you,
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you . . .”
–“If” by Rudyard Kipling

Yesterday’s decision in the case of John Jay Hooker, et al v. Tennessee, handed down by Chancellor Carol L. McCoy, is remarkable for its soundness and its clarity. The case was argued on 10 July in Chancery Court, with Hooker’s team seeking the right to have his physicians provide him with a lethal prescription, and not face charges for assisting a suicide. His legal team even used the term, “aid-in-dying,” a now-favored euphemism employed by Compassion and Choices, the group once known as “The Hemlock Society.” Thankfully, Chancellor McCoy saw this assault on the state’s ban on assisted suicide for what it was.

According to the decision (pp 19-20), the State identified six interests promoted by Tennessee’s Assisted Suicide Act, which are as follows:

  1. preserving life
  2. preventing suicide
  3. avoiding the involvement of third parties and the abuse of arbitrary, unfair or undue influence over physically, emotionally, mentally, or medically-impaired individuals
  4. protecting family members and loved ones
  5. protecting the integrity of the medical profession
  6. avoiding future movement toward euthanasia and other abuses

It was the Defendant’s position that “the State is not required to devalue one’s life upon that person receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness.” (p. 19) The Chancellor agreed, writing that the “Tennessee Supreme Court has held that there is a compelling State interest in protecting the life and promoting the health of its citizens.” (p. 20)

The Plaintiffs (Hooker’s legal team) claimed that “the terminally ill adult patient may be fearful about unknown consequences . . . may desire to continue a brave fight for life if he or she has the option of assisted suicide, and . . . may have more family involvement if the patient has the right to assisted suicide.” (p. 19) Chancellor McCoy wrote, “These arguments do not negate the State’s rationale, but invoke sympathy rather than reason. The Defendants have articulated sound and compelling reasons to justify legislation that bans assisted suicide.” (p. 19)

While the Compassion & Choices Action Network continues to promote death-inducing legislation across our nation, we need, like Chancellor McCoy, to keep our heads, see the fallacies for what they are, and defend life. We also need to do our best at providing real care — curative or palliative as befits the need — to people like John Jay Hooker in our midst. Then perhaps they will not mistake killing for care.