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The Alleged Distinction between Euthanasia and the Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Treatment: Conceptually Incoherent and Impossible to Maintain

University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 1998, No, 3, p. 837

24 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 1999 Last revised: 10 Mar 2012

David Orentlicher

UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law

Date Written: March 8, 2012

Abstract

Richard Epstein, in his book Mortal Peril, supports euthanasia and assisted suicide and rejects the distinction between them and withdrawal of treatment. In this essay, Professor Orentlicher argues that Epstein is correct in finding no meaningful moral distinction between euthanasia and treatment withdrawal, examines the reasons why the distinction has persisted in American jurisprudence, and explains why the distinction has eroded.

Epstein also concludes in his book that there is no constitutional right to euthanasia or assisted suicide. Professor Orentlicher's response is that constitutionality is not the appropriate inquiry; rather, the better question is whether to recognize a right to assisted suicide once a right to euthanasia in the form of terminal sedation already exists. He answers this question in the affirmative, arguing that assisted suicide enhances patient welfare and reduces risks of abuse in a world with euthanasia.

JEL Classification: I11, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Orentlicher, David, The Alleged Distinction between Euthanasia and the Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Treatment: Conceptually Incoherent and Impossible to Maintain (March 8, 2012). University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 1998, No, 3, p. 837. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=154250

David Orentlicher (Contact Author)

UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States

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