JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Has the sanctity of life law 'gone too far'?: analysis of the sanctity of life doctrine and English case law shows that the sanctity of life law has not 'gone too far'

Abdul-Rasheed Rabiu, Kapil Sugand
Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine: PEHM 2014 February 22, 9: 5
24559151
The medical profession consistently strives to uphold patient empowerment, equality and safety. It is ironic that now, at a time where advances in technology and knowledge have given us an increased capacity to preserve and prolong life, we find ourselves increasingly asking questions about the value of the lives we are saving. A recent editorial by Professor Raanan Gillon questions the emphasis that English law places on the sanctity of life doctrine. In what was described by Reverend Nick Donnelly as a "manifesto for killing patients", Professor Gillon argues that the sanctity of life law has gone too far because of its disregard for distributive justice and an incompetent person's previously declared autonomy. This review begins by outlining the stance of the sanctity of life doctrine on decisions about administering, withholding and withdrawing life-prolonging treatment. Using this as a foundation for a rebuttal, a proposal is made that Professor Gillon's assertions do not take the following into account:1) A sanctity of life law does not exist since English Common Law infringes the sanctity doctrine by tolerating quality of life judgements and a doctor's intention to hasten death when withdrawing life-prolonging treatment.2) Even if a true sanctity of life law did exist:a) The sanctity of life doctrine allows for resource considerations in the wider analysis of benefits and burdens.b) The sanctity of life doctrine yields to a competent person's autonomous decision.This review attempts to demonstrate that at present, and with the legal precedent that restricts it, a sanctity of life law cannot go too far.

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