Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Right to Die - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
The Right to Die - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Right to Die
“Compulsory Lifesaving Treatment for the Competent Adult.” Fordham Law Review 44 (October 1975): 1–36.
Can a competent but unwilling adult be required to undergo lifesaving medical treatment by court or other legal rulings? In the face of claims to autonomy, bodily self-determination, privacy, or free religious exercise, does the law recognize a patient's right to forego medical intervention?
This medical, legal, and ethical problem is complex. Various court decisions have judged this issue differently. In some cases courts, deferring to rights implicit in the American concept of personal liberty, have championed the patient's choice. In other cases, courts have ruled that various governmental and private interests are sufficiently compelling to overbalance the patient's choice.
The relevant and fundamental patient's rights, all concomitants of personal liberty, include the right to determine what shall be done with one's body, the right to acquiesce in imminent and inevitable death, and the right of free exercise of religion. A patient's autonomy and choice has been subordinated on the basis of state interests in preventing suicide, in protecting incompetents, in protecting the medical profession, in protecting minor children, and in protecting public health.
Without dealing with the moral dilemma of whether the patient's choice to forego treatment is ethically defensible, one can discover what the law is and elucidate its trends. Several conclusions are evident but difficult to reconcile.