For many years there has been some controversy over whether an individual has the right to endanger himself if his conduct threatens no direct harm to others. This issue has come up in a number of contexts including committing suicide, wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, engaging in endurance contests, and refusing a medically indicated blood transfusion. Recently it was raised again when the Holiness Church of God in Jesus Name in the mountains of Tennessee went to court over the right of its members to drink poison. On September 8, 1975, the Supreme Court of Tennessee handed down its decision in that case in State ex rel. Swann v. Pack enjoining the members of the sect from handling snakes or drinking poison because such activities constitute a common law public nuisance. This comment explores the debate over the validity of self-endangerment legislation and the case of State ex rel. Swann v. Pack.
Response or Comment
Sarah N. Welling, Comment, State ex rel. Swann v. Pack: Self-Endangerment and the First Amendment, 65 Ky. L.J. 195 (1976).