What does a `right' to physician-assisted suicide (PAS) legally entail?

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 23 (4-5):271-286 (2002)
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``What Does a Right to Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) Legallyentail?''''Much of the bioethics literature focuses on the morality ofPAS but ignores the legal implications of the conclusions thereby wrought. Specifically, what does a legal right toPAS entail both on the part of the physician and the patient? Iargue that we must begin by distinguishing a right to PAS qua``external'''' to a particular physician-patient relationship from a right to PAS qua ``internal'''' to a particular physician-patientrelationship. The former constitutes a negative claim right inrem that prohibits outside interference with the exercise of aright to PAS while the latter can provide the patient witha positive claim right in personam to obligatory assistancefrom his physician. Importantly, I argue that the creation of sucha patient right, however, originates with the physician who may exercise an unqualified right of first refusal prior to promisingto help her patient commit suicide. In doing so, I hope to establishthat explicit physician promises of assistance in dying shouldbecome legally binding. As such, current PAS law in both theNetherlands and Oregon is in need of substantive modification.



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