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Ending One's Own Life: Unjustifiable Injustice

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  • Law
  • Medicine

Abstract

Despite significant advancements in modern medicine, death remains our inevitable destiny; be it by accident, disease, illness or old age. This universal applicability, coupled with the recent advancements in modern medicine, allowing humans to live longer with various illnesses and diseases, have thrust the law regulating end of life to the forefront of the social debate. In light of this, the thesis explores the claim that the current law regarding ending one’s own life is arbitrary and unfair. In doing so, it examines the distinctions drawn between permissible and impermissible end of life practices. This discussion reveals that the distinctions made cannot withstand critical analysis, and are in fact, illogical and unjust. The thesis then continues by exploring the possibility that such unfairness could be justified with reference to a broader moral framework. An analysis of two positions, which are commonly invoked to defend the current legal position, reveals both as fundamentally flawed. The thesis concludes that the current law regulating ending one’s own life is, in fact, unjustifiably unjust – the fact that medical and physical circumstances determine whether one’s life can legally be ended, is entirely unfair, the fact that arbitrary distinctions are used to permit or deny such choice, is completely absurd. Moreover, as the thesis unfolds, it reveals a possible way forward; while attempts to change the law through the court system, through lobbying and through introducing new Bills have proven futile, one avenue has yet to be fully explored: the possibility of using Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights to frame those denied access to assistance as vulnerable and their situation as unbearable. This suggestion is perhaps a thesis for another day.

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