Rights Discourse and Assisted Suicide

By Lewis, Penney | American Journal of Law & Medicine, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Rights Discourse and Assisted Suicide


Lewis, Penney, American Journal of Law & Medicine


I. INTRODUCTION

The debate surrounding the legalization of assisted suicide] has been galvanized in recent years by reports of specific cases of assisted suicide, primarily involving physicians such as Kevorkian2 and Quill,3 and by impassioned pleas for legalization

and assistance in suicide from individuals suffering in the throes of terminal or agonizing diseases, such as Sue Rodriguez.4 Media attention on criminal trials of individuals accused of assisting in a suicide has heightened public awareness of the issue.5 The constitutionality of criminal prohibitions on assisted suicide has been

tested in various jurisdictions, and has recently been considered by the Supreme Courts of both the United States and Canada.6 Following two narrowly unsuccessful attempts to enact dignified death provisions by referenda in Washington7 and California,8 Oregon voters passed the first of such proposed laws in November 1994,

providing for physician-assisted suicide under certain specified conditions.9 Attempts to introduce legislation to legalize assisted suicide in other jurisdictions have been galvanized by the success in Oregon. 10 A model statute has been drafted by a group of law professors, philosophers and medical professionals.11

The upsurge in interest in assisted suicide has occurred against a backdrop of growing concern over "modern medical death" which seems to "strip [individuals] of choice and dignity."12 The use of advance directives and the judicial acceptance of

the right to refuse (even life-saving or life-sustaining) treatment13 have failed to diminish public anxieties surrounding this modern reality of dying.14 Physicians' attitudes characterized by "a worry about malpractice, a zest for technology, a deepseated moral belief in the need to prolong life, and the pressure of families and others, still often lead to overtreatment and an excessive reliance on technology."15 Desire to take control of this modern dying process has manifested itself in renewed calls for the legalization of assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia.16

Individuals and organizations on both sides of the debate over the legalization of assisted suicide have been quick to frame their arguments in terms of rights. Attracted by the trumping17 and attention-getting18 effects of rights discourse and the powerful political impact of right-based arguments, proponents and opponents of assisted suicide have claimed a battery of different rights to support their various positions. In general terms, those in favor of the legalization of assisted suicide have stressed a "revitalized argument for self-determination, pushing the idea of autonomy and patient rights as far as they can go."19 Those against such legalization have relied upon arguments concerning the right to life and, to a lesser extent, the right to equal protection.20

This article begins by enumerating different formulations of a right to suicide or assisted suicide. The discussion then moves from the kind of right claimed, to the basis of such a right, requiring a canvass of right-based arguments both in favor of and against the legalization of assisted suicide. Included, where appropriate, is a brief mention of any conceptual difficulties or limitations associated with the right at issue in the context of assisted suicide. The presentation of a multitude of conflicting and seemingly irresolvable right-based claims suggests the need to examine more closely the phenomenon of right-based arguments in the context of assisted suicide. The problems associated with such arguments are illuminated by looking at some of the critiques of rights which have gained popularity in recent years, and by discussing their applicability to the right-based arguments used in the assisted suicide debate. Such critiques suggest particular difficulties with right-based claims in this context. My agenda in this article is not to suggest solutions to these difficulties or to propose an alternative debate, but to illustrate common and serious problems which may impede the future debate surrounding the legalization of assisted suicide and prevent its consensual resolution. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Rights Discourse and Assisted Suicide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.