Assisted dying and the context of debate: 'medical law' versus 'end-of-life law'
[in special issue: Legal Challenges and New Horizons for Medicalised Death and Dying]
Medical Law Review, 18, (4), . (doi:10.1093/medlaw/fwq028). (PMID:21098048).
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This paper provides a reflective analysis of the nature of normative critiques of law generally, and within medical law specifically. It first seeks to establish the context within which critical analysis of law and legal measures takes place, and develops an argument that critiques should focus on political norms. Entailed in this claim is the contention that positions that seek to address controversial social problems can not resort simply to moral philosophy. It then provides a brief account of political liberalism that can contain and expose normative constraints on questions of moral and social contention. The focus then moves to a more direct reflection on medico-legal analysis. Considering both medical law as a discipline, and the study of end-of-life issues, the argument highlights the range of relevant issues that must be accounted for, and addresses the question of whether these are well conceived as ones of medical law. It is argued that a political framing offers a good general analytic context, but that when working in legal sub-disciplines analysts risk allowing ‘locally’ pertinent norms to dominate or unduly constrain wider debate. Thus it is questioned whether ‘medical law’ provides a coherent frame for social questions related to assisted-dying.
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