John Jay Hooker, terminally ill after decades of political and legal crusades, has filed a lawsuit contending that he has a right to assisted suicide under the Tennessee constitution, reports The Tennessean.
Hooker, 84, urged legislators earlier this year to change state law to permit assisted suicide. The bill was assigned to “summer study,” with Hooker urging that the study begin in May because he is not sure he will still be alive later in the year. No “summer study” hearing has yet been scheduled.
In the lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, Hooker is challenging a state law that makes it a felony for a doctor or another person to assist in someone’s death.
Hooker recites part of the first article of the state constitution from memory, focusing on one line: “Power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness.”
“If I’m in a state to die, it’s just a question of what day and what month, and my happiness is involved, do I want to sit there in bed and be the prisoner of that pain?” Hooker said. “Does the government have the right to tell me I can’t check out of this hotel? I say the government can’t tell the people they can’t do something that is in pursuit of their own happiness, and that doesn’t involve anyone else.”
He also argues there is no difference between a doctor taking away machines that support life and administering medications that end it.
Three doctors joined with Hooker to bring the case: Hooker’s physician, Dr. Jeffrey Sosman of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Dr. W. Barton Campbell, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and Dr. Robert Ballard, who Hooker said is in private practice in Memphis.
The lawsuit names Attorney General Herbert Slatery III, Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk.
…He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and says his fight for euthanasia is not just for himself. He pledged to continue to advocate for the issue in the legislature, where a bill stalled this year that would have allowed doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to a “mentally competent adult.”
UPDATE/NOTE: Hooker says his cancer has spread throughout his body and he doesn’t have much time left, according to WTVF. He’s asked for an expedited hearing on this lawsuit.