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The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia (New Forum Books) Paperback – April 12, 2009
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"I believe that anyone who is concerned about the issue must engage with [Gorsuch's] arguments."--Raymond Tallis, Times Literary Supplement
"Gorsuch lucidly lays out the key ethical and philosophical arguments on both sides. . . . [This] is the most important book published so far in consideration of ethical and legal issues."--Kevin Yuill, Spiked Review of Books
"The author provides a thorough overview of the ethical and legal issues raised by assisted suicide and euthanasia, as well as the most comprehensive argument against their legalization."--Issues in Law & Medicine
"Gorsuch reviews the case law and the range of ethical and legal issues surrounding assisted suicide and offers a strong argument against legalization of these practices, even as he considers both positions in the debate."--Law & Social Inquiry
"For those who need insight into the part played by legislators and courts of justice in recent euthanasia discussions, Neil M. Gorsuch's book . . . is an excellent source. . . . [C]omprehensive and well argued."--Theo A. Boer, Journal of Religious Ethics
"Neil M. Gorsuch builds a powerful moral and legal argument against [assisted suicide's] legalization, one based on a principle that has largely been overlooked in the debate--the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is wrong."--New Oxford Review
"Thoroughly researched. . . . Gorsuch is especially successful when exploring the relevant legal cases raised by assisted-suicide and euthanasia advocacy."--Wesley J. Smith, First Things
"Goruch's book is an exceptional contribution to a debate that is both significant and topical. Every reader, whether or not ultimately persuaded by his arguments, will emerge better equipped to tackle the profound questions surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide. it is essential reading for advocates and opponents alike."--Wendy E. Hiscox, Studies in Christian Ethics
From the Inside Flap
"A thoughtful, sober, and thorough work, which should be read by supporters, opponents, and the undecided alike."--Eugene Volokh, UCLA School of Law
"This may well become one of the most important books in the field. It is timely, thorough, well reasoned, well structured, and well written. Its reply to the arguments for legalizing physician-assisted suicide is measured, fair, and persuasive."--John Keown, Georgetown University, author of Euthanasia, Ethics, and Public Policy
"Gorsuch's book is an exceptionally fine contribution to one of the most timely debates in ethics and public policy: the question of assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. It sorts out the arguments for and against relaxing legal prohibitions on choices of these kinds, and does so in tandem with an account--close, accurate, straightforward, and uncluttered--of the developing law in statutes and cases. It could quickly become the leading book in the field."--Robert P. George, Princeton University, and the President's Commission on Bioethics
"In a world where there are now many books and articles on assisted suicide and euthanasia, Neil Gorsuch's book is a timely and significant contribution. While the primary focus is on the law, with a systematic survey of pertinent legal and court decisions, the book manages as well to nicely set the problem within a broader international context. His insights and arguments are penetrating and pertinent, and anyone who reads this book will come away with an expanded horizon of understanding."--Daniel Callahan, The Hastings Center, author of The Research Imperative: What Price Better Health?--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book shows how a good legal mind prepares. It surveys the examples, reasons, and consequences of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
The survey is across 2,000 years and places around the world. There are also chapters for the positions of selected ethical systems. The book is a display of legal scholarship seeking perspectives to prepare to form an opinion. We see classical Greece, Rome, Britain, Netherlands, and some states and historical episodes in the USA in detail. There are some key legal cases in the USA and Europe. These sources appear to match the education of the author. There is nothing from the Middle East, South or East Asia, Africa, or Native American cultures which might be influential on tens of millions of current US citizens.
The book does not discuss how pertinent examples might be. For example, no Roman person ever had an opinion about removing a feeding tube or separating conjoined twins. The slave society of Sparta would not have any thoughts about universal individual rights. Nor are they valid examples of what we risk becoming. We will not adopt infanticide for cosmetic defects as part of our consideration of euthanasia just as surely as a Spartan never let a woman vote. They were our past not our future – and the book has “future” in its title.
The founding event of our country was an unprecedented liberation of the citizen, and we have evolved our society with multiple emancipations since then. Each one frees us more completely as individuals and expands the horizons of human potential. The founders understood the declaration of rights should not be a limit upon the people, but upon the government. Past times and other places with unrealized freedoms are at best qualified guides to modern ethics. To the extent that the book catalogs as data the consequences of assisted suicide and euthanasia policy from other times and places I applaud it. But other times and peoples are no substitute for contemporary, actual citizens.
The book is not adept with numbers. They are generally presented without context to understand if they are large or small. Numbers are stated in isolation and little curiosity is applied to teasing out insights from them.
The author supposes the lack of Blacks choosing assisted suicide in Oregon is evidence of it being a “cultural choice”. With less than 70 assisted suicides in any one year and 1 in 60 ratio of Blacks in Oregon, it is statistically very unlikely any Black person in Oregon wanting assistance would have had a Black physician to ask, one who would not see a professional risk in agreeing. The numbers reflect our society and its problems, not “Black culture”. The author should walk in the shoes of fellow contemporary citizens. Understanding them has priority over understanding ancient Romans or even modern Dutch.
The book has a glaring gap in comparing to second amendment rights. Over half of USA suicides are with a gun, and a third of gun fatalities are suicides. These facts have not made those who sell or make guns culpable. The average gun dealer sells a gun used in a suicide every 5 years – almost certainly more often than a physician will ever be asked to assist suicide. They sell a gun which will be used for murder every 2.5 years. Legal arguments establish no responsibility to the sellers or makers of guns – why would similar arguments not be valid for those who assist suicide? Would an assistant who gives a gun, not pills, be protected from responsibility? The book considers neither the similarity nor the legal doctrines which flow around the second amendment.
Early in the book “assisted suicide” is analyzed as a situation where the person assisting must have an intent that the other person will die. The author never seems to consider that assistant could be sincere in not wanting the person to die, but committed to supporting the individual right of choice. What happened to “I do not support what you do, but I support your right to do it”? The author never revisits this analysis, and it colors judgement throughout the book.
Lurid hypothetical consequences are presented for the various social norms or philosophical approaches. Many of us would find these repugnant – but in this work of scholarship, mere “many of us” is not the expected standard. On what philosophy or culture, or even religion, were the good and the bad separated? On what grounds should we agree with the conclusions of the book? The foundations are unstated.
The book is unpersuasive. It has too many gaps. The work needs to be expanded with a more representative sweep of sources, a stated ethical foundation, grounded in the real world of today’s citizens, not commingled with alien times and places.
Generally those favoring physician assisted suicide are on the most liberal side of the American political spectrum. But Gorsuch convincing argues that the intellectual roots of their proposals are actually from Social Darwinism, the American eugenics movement, and the National Socialist Party of Germany of the 1930's. Adolph Hitler is directly quoted on page 36. What is publicly presented as a civil right involving "personal autonomy" would in practice present a serious threat to the safety of the most vulnerable members of society. Gorsuch quotes with obvious approval the 1994 British House of Lords study which argued that it would not be logically possible to frame sufficient safeguards to guarantee that all "voluntary" suicides would in fact actually be voluntary.
A "reform" which completely rejects the traditions of Western Civilization and makes homicide legal is not one which should be adopted without consideration of all the facts. Our author calls the debaters away from the realm of theory, speculation, and one liners--and back to the real world.
This book is written for the general reader rather than the historian, academician nor lawyer. It was a quicker read than I'd anticipated. Statistics are digested and presented in easy to read tables. Vocabulary is distinctly easy to comprehend, confirming my suspicion that there are still some lawyers left in the world who speak English as a native language.
A brief synopsis is that the book explores the recent and historical past of laws and attitudes regarding suicide, the direction of the debates over the subject which have been predicated by the rise of social Darwinism, Nazism and the eugenics movement, and the cultural/moral/philosophical context of the debates which have arisen. It explores the phenomenon of suicide in general and the ethics of suicide by proxy. There is discussion of the well known but largely unacknowledged "law of unintended consequences" and exploration of actual test cases. Using this background he makes a cogent argument against rushing to legalize 'assisted suicide' then another argument for development of an end of life ethic which is morally consistent. His epilogue is both reflections and processing, followed by an extensive set of notes and a comprehensive bibliography.