We live in a world in which courts crucially shape public policy through constitutional adjudication. This is a book written for that world. It brings together a group of distinguished scholars from many disciplines to examine the Supreme Court's recent decision that statutes prohibiting doctors from helping their patients commit suicide may be constitutional. It offers a guide to that decision and to the larger issues it raises for citizens and scholars alike. It asks everyone's first question: What does the decision mean for today and tomorrow? It asks the lawyer's question: Is the Supreme Court's reasoning clear and convincing? It asks the doctor's question: How will the decision affect the decisions physicians make with their patients? It asks the ethicist's question: Will the decision conduce to wise and just decisions at the end of life? It asks the historian's question: How are we to understand the Court's work in light of our disturbing national experience with euthanasia? Ultimately, it asks the questions citizens need to ask in our new world: Is constitutional adjudication a good way to make public policy? Are courts well equipped--with experience, with doctrine, with wisdom--to make good policy? What role should courts have in making policy in a democracy? Has the Supreme Court made good public policy? What is the right policy for law at the end of life?
Carl Schneider is Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School.
The Sanctity of Human Life
David Novak Georgetown University Press, 2007 Library of Congress R725.57.N68 2007 | Dewey Decimal 174.2
Heated debates are not unusual when confronting tough medical issues where it seems that moral and religious perspectives often erupt in conflict with philosophical or political positions. In The Sanctity of Human Life, Jewish theologian David Novak acknowledges that it is impossible not to take into account the theological view of human life, but the challenge is how to present the religious perspective to nonreligious people. In doing so, he shows that the two positions—the theological and the philosophical—aren't as far apart as they may seem.
Novak digs deep into Jewish scripture and tradition to find guidance for assessing three contemporary controversies in medicine and public policy: the use of embryos to derive stem cells for research, socialized medicine, and physician-assisted suicide. Beginning with thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Nietsche, and drawing on great Jewish figures in history—Maimonides, Rashi, and various commentators on the Torah (written law) and the Mishnah (oral law)—Novak speaks brilliantly to these modern moral dilemmas.
The Sanctity of Human Life weaves a rich and sophisticated tapestry of evidence to conclude that the Jewish understanding of the human being as sacred, as the image of God, is in fact compatible with philosophical claims about the rights of the human person—especially the right to life—and can be made intelligible to secular culture. Thus, according to Novak, the use of stem cells from embryos is morally unacceptable; the sanctity of the human person, and not capitalist or socialist approaches, should drive our understanding of national health care; and physician-assisted suicide violates humankind's fundamental responsibility for caring for one another.
Novak's erudite argument and rigorous scholarship will appeal to all scholars and students engaged in the work of theology and bioethics.
Assisted suicide remains one of the most emotionally charged and controversial topics—and the issue isn’t going away any time soon. As the baby boomer generation ages, many of us will watch as our parents—and ourselves—grow older, and wonder at the decisions that lie ahead.
Understanding Assisted Suicide provides both a fresh take on this important topic and the framework for intelligent participation in the discussion. Uniquely, the author frames the issue using his own experience watching both his parents die, which led him to ask fundamental questions about death, dying, religion, and the role of medicine and technology in alleviating human suffering.
In concerns about assisted suicide, each person’s “big picture” has largely been created out of picking and choosing from nine separate snapshot albums.
Understanding this offers a perspective for quickly determining the sources of another’s opinion on assisted suicide, as well as the issues they are not considering. Most importantly, Understanding Assisted Suicide offers a clear, easy-to-traverse landscape over which those who are sincerely looking for their own answers can navigate. The “nine-issue structure” allows both careful exploration of separate issues and a view of the full spectrum of ideas involved.