Food and Fluids: Human Law, Human Rights and Human Interests

In C. Tollefsen (ed.), Artificial Nutrition and Hydration. Springer Press 77--100 (2008)
The experience of the twentieth century bears witness to the abuse, mutilation and homicide of the vulnerable made possible by the power of the state, mass markets, and medical and financial interests. Suggestions for reform of the law regarding food and fluids typically take place in the context of utilitarian personistic “quality-of-life” presuppositions, and interests in shifting legal responsibility for life-and-death decisions, medical research, drug trials, organ harvesting as well as more mundane bureaucratic concerns like bed-clearing. With the Western world undergoing massive demographic change and a growing ageing and non-productive population, it cannot be assumed that these alterations to the positive law are problem-free. By allowing new agents power to require that food and fluids be withdrawn, non-therapeutic research and other procedures (like abortion and sterilisation) be performed on non-consenting patients, novel legislation such as that discussed cannot be regarded as autonomy enhancing so much as a threat to human rights. These laws although touted as progressive, more often than not invite routine abuse and destruction of the vulnerable, obscure accountability and create an inconsistent body of law, with conflicting obligations for health professionals.
Keywords Withdrawing water  Passive euthanasia  Active euthanasia  Dehydration
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