10 August 2018

The Power of Life or Death - 2

It is undoubtedly the case that medical professionals are at times overly interventionist, in the sense that drastic life-saving measures are imposed on some clients who would prefer not to have such measures applied. Certainly this phenomenon is part of what fuels the ‘right to die’ movement. Yet because the autonomy issue is evaded, the debate has a tendency to turn on the question of whether treatment is ‘appropriate’ rather than on whether it is not wanted by the client.

One of the results of this has been the development of a view according to which life-prolonging measures may well be ‘inappropriate’ in certain circumstances and therefore may — indeed should — be withheld. This is a consideration which operates to some extent independently of the wishes of the client.

Thus, ironically, arguments about the right to die have so far not resulted in any facilitation of suicide for the terminally ill, but have instead promoted a tendency to deny treatment to those who might wish to prolong their life however poor its apparent ‘quality’.

from The Power of Life or Death, Foreword by Thomas Szasz

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