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Suffering and Bioethics$
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Ronald M. Green and Nathan J. Palpant

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199926176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926176.001.0001

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Exploring Interactions between Pain, Suffering, and the Law

Exploring Interactions between Pain, Suffering, and the Law

Chapter:
(p.201) 10 Exploring Interactions between Pain, Suffering, and the Law
Source:
Suffering and Bioethics
Author(s):

Margaret Somerville

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926176.003.0010

The debate about legalizing euthanasia presents a head-on conflict between respect for individual autonomy and respect for life. The law must choose between them. This decision will have unprecedented, major impacts at individual, institutional, and societal levels and will be the defining societal values issue of the first half of the twenty-first Century. The main justification for legalizing euthanasia is the relief of pain and suffering; consequently, how the law perceives and deals with them is crucially important. This chapter focuses on the law’s approach to pain and suffering in the euthanasia debate. A Canadian judge recently held that prohibiting access to physician-assisted suicide—or, if necessary, euthanasia—is unconstitutional. This case, explored in depth, shows the complex interaction of the law and suffering. In conclusion, the author argues that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are not legitimate suffering relief interventions or legitimate medical treatment and therefore should not be legalized.

Keywords:   suffering, international law, human rights, torture, starvation, terminal illness

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