Over the past hundred years, average life expectancy in America has
nearly doubled, due largely to scientific and medical advances, but
also as a consequence of safer working conditions, a heightened
awareness of the importance of diet and health, and other factors.
Yet while longevity is celebrated as an achievement in modern
civilization, the longer people live, the more likely they are to
succumb to chronic, terminal illnesses. In 1900, the average life
expectancy was 47 years, with a majority of American deaths
attributed to influenza, tuberculosis, pneumonia, or other
diseases. In 2000, the average life expectancy was nearly 80 years,
and for too many people, these long lifespans included cancer,
heart failure, Lou Gehrig's disease, AIDS, or other fatal
illnesses, and with them, came debilitating pain and the loss of a
once-full and often independent lifestyle. In this compelling and
provocative book, noted legal scholar Howard Ball poses the
pressing question: is it appropriate, legally and ethically, for a
competent individual to have the liberty to decide how and when to
die when faced with a terminal illness? At Liberty to Die charts
how, the right of a competent, terminally ill person to die on his
or her own terms with the help of a doctor has come deeply
embroiled in debates about the relationship between religion, civil
liberties, politics, and law in American life. Exploring both the
legal rulings and the media frenzies that accompanied the Terry
Schiavo case and others like it, Howard Ball contends that despite
raging battles in all the states where right to die legislation has
been proposed, the opposition to the right to die is intractable in
its stance. Combining constitutional analysis, legal history, and
current events, Ball surveys the constitutional arguments that have
driven the right to die debate.
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