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Deconstructing DignityA Critique of the Right-to-Die Debate$
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Scott Cutler Shershow

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226088129

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226088266.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 06 April 2020

The Right to Die: Mapping a Contemporary Debate

The Right to Die: Mapping a Contemporary Debate

(p.85) Chapter Five The Right to Die: Mapping a Contemporary Debate
Deconstructing Dignity

Scott Cutler Shershow

University of Chicago Press

This chapter argues that the arguments on both sides of the debate about a right to die are characterized by unacknowledged contradictions, and in particular by a tension between the claims of calculation and incalculability. Those in favor of a right to die argue above all that such a right is the supreme expression of individual autonomy, freedom, and reasoned choice. They also, however, implicitly undermine this argument by also suggesting that the establishment of such a right would also conserve scarce medical resources. Those opposed to a right to die, similarly, argue above all for an unconditional principle of “always care, never kill.” But they also implicitly qualify this absolute principle by eschewing all possibility of reasoned choice, and arguing that even though some cases seem to justify a right to die, to allow even these will put on us on a “slippery slope” towards a “culture of death.” This side also undermines the principle of unconditional care even more fatally by yoking it to an ethics of the marketplace by which, in practice, such care would be distributed according to the vagaries of birth, employment and fortune.

Keywords:   Right to die, Euthanasia, Autonomy, Freedom of Choice, Assisted-Suicide, Death with Dignity, Leon R. Kass, Wesley J. Smith, Brian Clark, Whose Life Is it Anyway?, Paul Ramsey

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