Overlooking the Merits of the Individual Case: An Unpromising Approach to the Right to Die

Ratio Juris 4 (2):131-151 (1991)
Abstract
.One of the strongest arguments against the legalization of voluntary euthanasia is that even though a given suffering or comatose patient may have a moral right to die, legal recognition of the right would lead inevitably to mistakes and abuses in other cases. The flaw in this argument is the assumption that it is always and necessarily a greater evil to let someone die by mistake than to keep a person alive by mistake. In fact, we cannot plausibly say that one of these two kinds of mistake is in itself, isolated from other factors, always more serious than the other. This point is illustrated by an examination both of a terminal patient whose prospect is a full year of intolerable pain and of a patient in a “persistent vegetative state” . Moreover, it is untrue that legalization would necessarily lead to greater numbers of mistakenly approved discontinuances of treatment than of mistakenly approved refusals of termination, and numbers, it is argued, do matter
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