To be or not to be—who asks this question today, and how? What does it mean to issue, or respond to, an appeal for the right to die? In A Death of One’s Own, the first sustained literary study of the right to die, Jared Stark takes up these timely questions by testing predominant legal understandings of assisted suicide and euthanasia against literary reflections on modern death from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rigorously interdisciplinary and lucidly argued, Stark’s wide-ranging discussion sheds critical light on the disquieting bioethical and biopolitical dilemmas raised by contemporary forms of medical technology and legal agency.
More than a survey or work of advocacy, A Death of One’s Own examines the consequences and limits of the three reasons most often cited for supporting a person’s right to die: that it is justified as an expression of personal autonomy or self-ownership; that it constitutes an act of self-authorship, of “choosing a final chapter” in one’s life; and that it enables what has come to be called “death with dignity.” Probing the intersections of law and literature, Stark interweaves close discussion of major legal, political, and philosophical arguments with revealing readings of literary and testimonial texts by writers including Balzac, Melville, Benjamin, and Améry.
A thought-provoking work that will be of interest to those concerned with law and humanities, biomedical ethics, cultural history, and human rights, A Death of One’s Own opens new and suggestive paths for thinking about the history of modern death as well as the unsettled future of the right to die.
End-of-life issues and questions are complex and frequently cause confusion and anxiety. In Death with Dignity,theologian, medical ethicist, and pastoral caregiver Peter A. Clark examines numerous issues that are pertinent to patients, family members, and health care professionals, including physiology, consciousness, the definition of death, the distinction between extraordinary and ordinary means, medical futility, “Do Not Resuscitate” orders, living wills, power of attorney, pain assessment and pain management, palliative and hospice care, the role of spirituality in end-of-life care, and physicians’ communication with terminal patients. Patients, family members, medical students, and health care professionals will find in Death with Dignity thepractical and ethical knowledge they need to capably and confidently cope with end-of-life challenges.
The right-to-die debate has gone on for centuries, playing out most recently as a spectacle of protest surrounding figures such as Terry Schiavo. In Deconstructing Dignity, Scott Cutler Shershow offers a powerful new way of thinking about it philosophically. Focusing on the concepts of human dignity and the sanctity of life, he employs Derridean deconstruction to uncover self-contradictory and damaging assumptions that underlie both sides of the debate.
Shershow examines texts from Cicero’s De Officiis to Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals to court decisions and religious declarations. Through them he reveals how arguments both supporting and denying the right to die undermine their own unconditional concepts of human dignity and the sanctity of life with a hidden conditional logic, one often tied to practical economic concerns and the scarcity or unequal distribution of medical resources. He goes on to examine the exceptional case of self-sacrifice, closing with a vision of a society—one whose conditions we are far from meeting—in which the debate can finally be resolved. A sophisticated analysis of a heated topic, Deconstructing Dignity is also a masterful example of deconstructionist methods at work.
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 Law of Life and Death
Elizabeth Price Foley Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress KF3827.D4F65 2011 | Dewey Decimal 344.730419
Are you alive? What makes you so sure? Most people believe this question has a clear answer—that some law defines our status as living (or not) for all purposes. But they are dead wrong. In this pioneering study, Elizabeth Price Foley examines the many, and surprisingly ambiguous, legal definitions of what counts as human life and death.
Foley reveals that “not being dead” is not necessarily the same as being alive, in the eyes of the law. People, pre-viable fetuses, and post-viable fetuses have different sets of legal rights, which explains the law's seemingly inconsistent approach to stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, frozen embryos, in utero embryos, contraception, abortion, homicide, and wrongful death.
In a detailed analysis that is sure to be controversial, Foley shows how the need for more organ transplants and the need to conserve health care resources are exerting steady pressure to expand the legal definition of death. As a result, death is being declared faster than ever before. The "right to die," Foley worries, may be morphing slowly into an obligation to die.
Foley’s balanced, accessible chapters explore the most contentious legal issues of our time—including cryogenics, feticide, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, brain death, vegetative and minimally conscious states, informed consent, and advance directives—across constitutional, contract, tort, property, and criminal law. Ultimately, she suggests, the inconsistencies and ambiguities in U.S. laws governing life and death may be culturally, and perhaps even psychologically, necessary for an enormous and diverse country like ours.
Advance directives—such as living wills and health care proxies—are documents intended to declare and preserve the health care choices of patients if they become unable to make their own decisions. This book provides a comprehensive overview of advance directives and clear, practical directions for writing and interpreting them.
Nancy M.P. King provides a legal, philosophical, and historical analysis of the moral and legal force of advance directives. She explains the types and models of advance directives currently in use and offers guidelines for individuals seeking to write, read, and use directives to promote individuals' health care choices within the laws of their own states.
King emphasizes that advance directives are not orders given by patients to their doctors; instead, they are documents that invite conversation between doctors and patients about health care decisions of great importance. The purpose of advance directives is to support patients' health care choices, and the book promotes a thoughtful use of advance directives that is best calculated to achieve that purpose, whatever form individual advance directives may take.
This new edition has been updated to reflect the many changes in advance directive statutes since 1991, including expanded discussions of health care proxy statutes, the impact of the Patient Self-Determination Act and the Supreme Court's Cruzan decision. King also has extended her analysis of the implications for advance directives of managed care, resource allocation, resource scarcity, and the debate over futile treatment at the end of life.
Making Sense of Advance Directives is a valuable handbook for patients, health care providers and administrators, patient counselors, lawyers, policymakers, and any individual interested in advance directives.
There are few issues more divisive than what has become known as “the right to die.” One camp upholds “death with dignity,” regarding the terminally ill as autonomous beings capable of forming their own judgment on the timing and process of dying. The other camp advocates “sanctity of life,” regarding life as intrinsically valuable, and that should be sustained as long as possible. Is there a right answer?
Raphael Cohen-Almagor takes a balanced approach in analyzing this emotionally charged debate, viewing the dispute from public policy and international perspectives. He offers an interdisciplinary, compelling study in medicine, law, religion, and ethics. It is a comprehensive look at the troubling question of whether physician-assisted suicide should be allowed. Cohen-Almagor delineates a distinction between active and passive euthanasia and discusses legal measures that have been invoked in the United States and abroad. He outlines reasons non-blood relatives should be given a role in deciding a patient’s last wishes. As he examines euthanasia policies in the Netherlands and the 1994 Oregon Death with Dignity Act, the author suggests amendments and finally makes a circumscribed plea for voluntary physician-assisted suicide.
Seven in ten Americans over the age of age of sixty who require medical decisions in the final days of their life lack the capacity to make them. For many of us, our biggest, life-and-death decisions—literally—will therefore be made by someone else. They will decide whether we live or die; between long life and quality of life; whether we receive heroic interventions in our final hours; and whether we die in a hospital or at home. They will determine whether our wishes are honored and choose between fidelity to our interests and what is best for themselves or others. Yet despite their critical role, we know remarkably little about how our loved ones decide for us.
Speaking for the Dying tells their story, drawing on daily observations over more than two years in two intensive care units in a diverse urban hospital. From bedsides, hallways, and conference rooms, you will hear, in their own words, how physicians really talk to families and how they respond. You will see how decision makers are selected, the interventions they weigh in on, the information they seek and evaluate, the values and memories they draw on, the criteria they weigh, the outcomes they choose, the conflicts they become embroiled in, and the challenges they face. Observations also provide insight into why some decision makers authorize one aggressive intervention after the next while others do not—even on behalf of patients with similar problems and prospects. And they expose the limited role of advance directives in structuring the process decision makers follow or the outcomes that result.
Research has consistently found that choosing life or death for another is one of the most difficult decisions anyone can face, sometimes haunting families for decades. This book shines a bright light on a role few of us will escape and offers steps that patients and loved ones, health care providers, lawyers, and policymakers could undertake before it is too late.