To Die or Not to Die? Cross-Disciplinary, Cultural, and Legal Perspectives on the Right to Choose Death

To Die or Not to Die? Cross-Disciplinary, Cultural, and Legal Perspectives on the Right to Choose Death

To Die or Not to Die? Cross-Disciplinary, Cultural, and Legal Perspectives on the Right to Choose Death

To Die or Not to Die? Cross-Disciplinary, Cultural, and Legal Perspectives on the Right to Choose Death

Synopsis

This provocative new book provides guidelines for dealing with the sensitive legal and ethical issues surrounding an individual's right to die. Designed to give a global perspective on these contemporary issues, To Die or Not to Die uses a cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and cross-legal approach. By integrating the ideas and experiences of ten authorities from different disciplines, cultures, and legal systems, this book builds a new foundation for thinking or rethinking the controversial questions surrounding the subject.

Excerpt

The history of a people or nation is the product of the event-shaping lives of powerful and commanding figures--an Einstein, a Lincoln, a Napoleon, yes, even a Hitler. But the history of the subject of helping or allowing a person to die is very different. It is a special kind of history because it is the product of the lives and deaths of little and inconspicuous people--Paul Brophy, a firefighter; Elizabeth Bouvia, a quadriplegic; Joseph Saikewicz, a retarded man; Claire Conroy, a nursing home resident.

This special history began in 1976 with a 22-year-old woman no one had even heard of--Karen Ann Quinlan--who, after ingesting drugs and alcohol, passed into a persistent vegetative state. She came to personify a medical technology whose advances had finally made it possible, with its machines and techniques, to keep people alive even after life had ceased to be a precious gift. Karen's case made headlines when, after her family tried in vain to get a hospital and the attending physician to disconnect her from a respirator, a court authorized her parents in 1976 to remove it and to let her die. Since then, the subject of helping or letting someone die has been the focus of attention in the media, by pro-life and right-to-die advocates, and in recent court decisions in the cases of Brophy, Bouvia, Saikewicz, Conroy, and others. Interest in the subject has spread and soared.

In spite of this interest, the problems raised when people choose to end their lives and, when necessary, request others to help them do so remain among the hardest nuts we have ever had to crack.

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