Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

The Right to Privacy and the Right to Die

Tom L. Beauchampa1

a1 Philosophy, Georgetown University

Western ethics and law have been slow to come to conclusions about the right to choose the time and manner of one's death. However, policies, practices, and legal precedents have evolved quickly in the last quarter of the twentieth century, from the forgoing of respirators to the use of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, to the forgoing of all medical technologies (including hydration and nutrition), and now, in one U.S. state, to legalized physician-assisted suicide. The sweep of history—from the Quinlan case in New Jersey to legislation in Oregon that allows physician-assisted suicide—has been as rapid as it has been revolutionary.