Document Type


Publication Date



When I am invited to participate in conferences on the "right to die," I suspect that the organizers of such gatherings expect me to fill what might be called the " 'slippery slope' slot" on the program or, more generally, to articulate the "conservative" position on this controversial matter. These expectations are hardly surprising. The "right to die" is a euphemism for what almost everybody used to call a form of euthanasia-" passive" or "negative" or "indirect" euthanasia-and some thirty years ago, in the course of raising various objections to proposed euthanasia legislation, I advanced the "thin edge of the wedge" or the "slippery slope" argument with some zest. This roused the ire of the renowned British legal commentator, Glanville Williams, perhaps the leading proponent of euthanasia to be found in academia at the time. Williams disparaged the argument as the "trump card of the traditionalist," one, he asserted, that was used in nineteenth-century England "to resist almost every social and economic change."