LIFE'S WORTH: The Case Against Assisted Suicide

Arthur J. Dyck, Author, Dennis P. Hollinger, Foreword by, Francis J. Beckwith, Foreword by
Arthur J. Dyck, Author, Dennis P. Hollinger, Foreword by, Francis J. Beckwith, Foreword by . Eerdmans $20 (110p) ISBN 978-0-8028-4594-8
Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002

This exceptionally cogent contribution to an often muddled debate defends legal prohibitions against physician assisted suicide (PAS), while urging that "comfort-only care"—in which life-sustaining treatments may be discontinued—should be available for terminally ill patients. While it addresses a range of questions, the book centers on our intuitions of what makes killing wrong, introducing notions of an inalienable right to life, humans' natural love of life and the sanctity of human life. Dyck, professor of population ethics at Harvard, displays a strong grasp of relevant issues in ethics, law and political philosophy, and represents opposing views with scrupulous accuracy. His methodical (and, at points, highly original) critique of justifications for PAS avoids the sensationalism that easily creeps into this topic. Dyck devotes more attention to the likes of Timothy Quill than Jack Kevorkian, and engages moderate positions—those accommodating PAS under narrowly prescribed circumstances—rather than merely scoring easy points against more radical approaches. While Dyck's views reflect a Christian perspective, as is especially clear in the final chapter, he avoids "an appeal to authority as such" in favor of a more general claim that "the obligation to foster and preserve our larger communities is a shared, human responsibility. Loving one's neighbor as oneself is not solely a personal or private matter for Christians or non-Christians...[both] have a shared moral responsibility for the laws and policies that are essential for protecting human life." (Dec.)