For decades assisted dying and euthanasia have sparked fierce public debate. The recent case of Terri Schiavo, and the firestorm of controversy it provoked, placed the issue in dramatic fashion before the American people once again, raising a host of complex legal, medical-ethical, religious, and individual liberties questions.
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Now, in Easeful Death, Mary Warnock and Elisabeth Macdonald offer a clearly reasoned, even-handed assessment of arguments both for and against the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The authors take as their starting point the attempts in Britain and other countries to bring compassion into the rules governing the end of a patient's life. Drawing on the experience of the Netherlands, Belgium, and the state of Oregon in the US, where either assisted dying or euthanasia have been legalized, the authors explore the philosophical and ethical views on both sides of the debate, and examine how different legislative proposals would affect different members of society, from the very young to the very old. They describe the practical, medical processes of palliative care, self-denial of food and water, assisted dying and euthanasia, and ultimately conclude that the public is ready to embrace a more compassionate approach to assisted dying and that the dying themselves deserve a greater say in the timing and manner of their deaths.
Written with sensitivity, grace, and level-headed authority, Easeful Death is essential reading for caregivers, doctors, medical ethicists, and anyone concerned with their own or a loved one's end of life decisions. It argues persuasively that whatever the results of the legislative debate, compassion must be the guiding principle in the way we treat people who are dying or want to die.