Supremes refuse expedited hearing in Hooker ‘death with dignity’ lawsuit

The Tennessee Supreme Court has rejected a request from John Jay Hooker for an quick hearing on his appeal of a lower court decision rejecting an assisted suicide lawsuit, reports The Tennessean.

The justices said Hooker cannot take his case directly to the state’s highest court — essentially skipping an intermediate court. They said the former gubernatorial candidate and advocate must go through the regular appeals process, starting with the Court of Appeals. Hooker, who has terminal cancer, said he plans to do just that.

“I am in a rush to get this question decided so that those of us who face death can decide if we want to die with a smile on our face instead of tears in our eyes,” he said. Hooker pushed legislation earlier this year to change a Tennessee law that makes it a crime for doctors to prescribe life-ending medication. The legislation was not passed, and Hooker filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court asking a judge to allow his doctors to prescribe the medication.

In September, Chancellor Carol McCoy dismissed the case, saying Hooker did not have standing to pursue legal action.

Hooker said Friday he believed McCoy should not have heard the case. Hooker said that is because McCoy’s husband, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Roger Page, applied to fill a vacant seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court after the retirement of Justice Gary Wade. Hooker said because Gov. Bill Haslam was named as a defendant in his Chancery Court case, and Haslam will appoint the next Supreme Court justice, McCoy had an interest in how she decided the case and should have removed herself from it.

McCoy heard arguments in July, before court administrators publicly announced Wade’s retirement. She issued her ruling five days after her husband applied for the vacancy.

Calls to McCoy’s office were directed to Trial Court Administrator Tim Townsend, who said he could not comment.