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The “Right to Die” 

The “Right to Die”
Chapter:
The “Right to Die”
Author(s):

Robert C. Macauley

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199313945.003.0005
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date: 25 August 2019

Formerly referred to as “passive euthanasia,” forgoing life-sustaining medical treatment came to be accepted in the 1970s based on a patient’s right to privacy. In order to achieve this societal shift, the practice was clearly distinguished from active euthanasia, which was universally rejected. Over the ensuing decades, other permutations of “the right to die”—including receiving intensive pain medication at the end of life and palliative sedation—were considered and accepted to varying degrees. Modern advocates of euthanasia now argue that it is not, in fact, so different from forgoing life-sustaining medical treatment, which endangers the critical consensus that lies at the heart of the patient rights movement. Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking is also discussed, as well as the ethical equivalence of withdrawing and withholding life-sustaining treatment.

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