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
Date Written: March 8, 2012
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: Suggested Citation