Forewords do not usually begin with a disclaimer, but there is a reason here, for Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy uncompromisingly addresses themes which colleagues of the present writer, and occasionally he himself, have tackled in the past, and may have to tackle together in the future. Comity and courtesy make it necessary to avoid the implication that the opinions expressed in this valuable work are necessarily shared in full. This being said, it is a pleasure to welcome a contribution to what is, at present, the most intellectually demanding, the most ethically challenging, and the most important for its contingent effects as well as for its immediate practical impact, of all the points on the line where law, medicine, belief and reason intersect.
The image of the slippery slope is often called up as a warning to those who take an easy step without looking to see where the next may lead, but it also reminds us that in this area the concepts themselves are slippery, escaping sideways from the effort to grasp them. The overlapping problems of accelerated death demand intellectual honesty rather than unfocussed right-thinking, and an emphasis on duties as well as individual rights.
The steepness of the slope, and its treacherous footing, are often concealed by an emollient vocabulary. Thus, the expression 'best interests' conveys an upbeat meaning, at odds with its more chilling implications. So also, the contemporary watchword 'personal autonomy' distracts attention from the duties of those implicated in the rights-based choice of the principal actor. Indeed, so deceptive is the terminology that these two antithetical concepts, authoritarian and libertarian, are quite frequently deployed at the same time: an important example of the need to know what words mean before employing them in debate. The present work uncompromisingly takes this stance, and is right to do so. Equally, it exposes the interchangeable usage of concepts which are not the same: intend/foresee,