Legal Briefing: Medical Futility and Assisted Suicide
Thaddeus Mason Pope
Hamline University - School of Law
Journal of Clinical Ethics, Vol. 20, No. 3, p. 274, 2009
Since 2009, Professor Pope has authored a quarterly "Legal Briefing" column for the Journal of Clinical Ethics. Each briefing comprehensively reviews legal developments concerning a particular issue in clinical bioethics. The Journal of Clinical Ethics owns the exclusive copyright to distribute the full-text content.
This column is the successor of the Legal Trends column published in this journal since its first issue. But as indicated by the title, this column has adopted a new format. The old format consisted of a comprehensive citation-rich survey of all legal developments across a wide range of bioethics topics. While this nearly bibliographic collection of authorities was surely useful to many readers, staking out such a broad field left little room for analysis or explanation of the briefly-mentioned legal developments.
This new Legal Briefing column will cover legal developments pertaining to just one or two topics in clinical ethics. Thereby, this column aims to provide readers with a deeper, more thorough understanding of evolving legal themes and issues. The primary objective is to synthesize and analyze recent changes in and applications of the law, not to assess the ethical or jurisprudential justifiability of such changes and applications.
This issue’s Legal Briefing column covers legal developments pertaining to medical futility and assisted suicide. Not only have both these topics been the subject of recent articles in this Journal, but they have also been the subject of significant legislative and judicial activity over the past several months. While seemingly unrelated, medical futility and assisted suicide are endpoints on the same continuum. While the futility debate exemplifies limits on autonomy to pursue life-prolonging procedures, the assisted suicide debate exemplifies limits on autonomy to pursue life-ending procedures.
Keywords: medical futility, assisted suicide, autonomy, health law, medical ethics
JEL Classification: K32
Date posted: August 4, 2010 ; Last revised: July 1, 2014
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