chapter  3
16 Pages

ETHICS, LAW AND ASSISTED SUICIDE – RECLAIMING THE SANCTITY OF DEATH

Since the writing of the article contained in this chapter, the ‘euthanasia’ debates have become more furiously event-and discourse-driven. In Britain, the case of Diane Pretty1 – who deliberately subjected herself to public awareness in an attempt to rally understanding and support for the plight of those suffering from terminal, physically debasing conditions – created a forum for discursive exploration, whilst the more recent case of Burke v GMC 2 reminds us that too ready a move toward acceptance of the notion of euthanasia may indeed create a new type of victim. From another point of view, the Pretty and Burke cases have ground in common, in that both seek legal endorsement of an individual’s rights (through the notions enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)) to express their autonomy in directing what should happen to their bodies at the advent of total incapacity and perhaps incipient death. The emergence of this pattern of events permits new perspectives upon the euthanasia debates.