John Jay Hooker was an attorney and well known activist in Nashville, Tennessee. When John Jay was diagnosed with terminal metastatic melanoma in 2015, he began fighting to access medical aid in dying because, as he told Nashville Scene, he believed that “the right to die is a liberty right.”

In May 2015, John Jay was joined by physicians W. Barton Campbell, Jeffrey A. Sosman, and Robert Ballard, all of whom filed a Complaint in Davidson County, Tennessee, requesting that the court declare that no physicians could be criminally prosecuted for providing a prescription for medical aid in dying. John Jay and his physicians believed that people have the constitutional right to have the liberty to choose the manner in which they die.

John Jay spent the last year of his life passionately fighting for not only his right to die with dignity, but for the rights of all Tennesseans to die in the manner they choose. Unfortunately, the Tennessee court ruled that John Jay Hooker and his doctors did not have legal standing to bring the issue to the court. After the court’s ruling, John Jay Hooker told the Tennessean, “It is a sad day for the rule of law, and that the judge has claimed that I and others who have a terminal illness don’t have legal standing to raise the questions about the right of the state to determine  whether or not you can take your own life. . . The fact is, that’s an error.”

Though Hooker v. Slatery didn’t establish the right we sought, Compassion & Choices will continue to fight for and support medical aid in dying across the country, and we are optimistic the matter will be revisited in Tennessee in the future, whether that be through a judicial motion or legislative action. While there is currently no pending medical aid in dying legislation in Tennessee, please click here for information on how to start a volunteer effort, contact elected officials, and more.

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