Case-Studies in Bioethics - Briefs: The Right to Die and Refuse to Die:

8 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2017

See all articles by Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Institute of World Politics; International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto; Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.

Date Written: August 16, 2017


As a field, bioethics purports to provide a culturally-neutral methodology to assess ethical implications in care of human life. In America, this is “based on four common, basic prima facie moral commitments -- respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice”. Based on that assumption, we would expect that similar ethical dilemmas in the same loci would generate similar outcomes. Similarly we would expect that exactly the same dilemmas in different loci with similar cultures would also result in the same outcome. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This case-study illustrates two scenarios: the first concerns the State of Texas whose legislature simultaneously empowers doctors to “withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment (upon approval of the medical ethics committee), if, in the doctors’ judgment continued care and feeding would not prolong the patient’s life,” and restricts a woman’s right to abortion. The statutes, as effectuated deprive the ‘living lucid’ of a right to life, while affording the unborn fetus superior status (protecting that entities’ existence) compared to the rights of the woman carrying it.

The second scenario is situation-driven. Here we have one court in the United States determining a seventeen year old may not refuse treatment to end her life. In the Netherlands, the outcome was entirely different.

Keywords: bioethics, narrative, right to die, right to refuse treatment, dunn case, netherlands, texas, TADA, Texas Advance Directive Act

JEL Classification: I1, I100, I114, I118

Suggested Citation

Billauer, Barbara P., Case-Studies in Bioethics - Briefs: The Right to Die and Refuse to Die: (August 16, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Barbara P. Billauer (Contact Author)

Institute of World Politics ( email )

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+1 202-462-2101 (Phone)

International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto ( email )

Rua Dr. Roberto Frias
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Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc. ( email )

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Washington, DC 20036
United States
972 54 344 6055 (Phone)

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