Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1976

Abstract

There have been and there will continue to be compelling circumstances when a doctor or relative or friend will violate The Law On The Books and, more often than not, receive protection from The Law In Action. But this is not to deny that there are other occasions when The Law On The Books operates to stay the hand of all concerned, among them situations where the patient is in fact ( 1 ) presently incurable, ( 2) beyond the aid of any respite which may come along in his life expectancy, suffering ( 3 ) intolerable and ( 4) unmitigable pain and of a ( 5) fixed and ( 6) rational desire to die. That any euthanasia program may only be the opening wedge for far more objectionable practices, and that even within the bounds of a "voluntary" plan such as Williams' the incidence of mistake or abuse is likely to be substantial, are not much solace to one in the above plight. It may be conceded that in a narrow sense it is an "evil" for such a patient to have to continue to suffer-if only for a little while. But in a narrow sense, long-term sentences and capital punishment are "evils," too.246 If we can justify the infliction of imprisonment and death by the state "on the ground of the social interests to be protected" then surely we can similarly justify the postponement of death by the state. The objection that the individual is thereby treated not as an "end" in himself but only as a "means" to further the common good was, I think, aptly disposed of by Holmes long ago. "If a man lives in society, he is likely to find himself so treated."


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