A natural death or the death of the natural: towards a legal critique of death in Ireland
Hanafin, Patrick John (1995) A natural death or the death of the natural: towards a legal critique of death in Ireland. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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Death has been viewed in cultural terms in Ireland more as rite than right. Engrained in the collective consciousness is the conception of death as part of nature's course, a societal rite of passage. This in turn is influenced by the peculiar Irish attitude to nature and the natural which has found legal expression in the Constitution of 1937 with its homage to the ideals of natural law. The way in which successive governments have approached the issues spanning the natural cycle: contraception, birth, education, marriage and sexuality has borne the imprint of a pre-modern approach to social, ethical and legal dilemmas. The right to die is as much part of the debate over the right to life as is the status of the unborn. Chapter one is an introductory chapter which outlines in greater detail the extent of the question to be broached and the method of its answer. In the second chapter, the issue of defining death is studied. The relationship between both legal and ethical definitions of this concept and the practice of medicine is examined. In chapter three the topic of pregnancy termination is examined, with special reference to the legal and ethical problems which arise in this area of medical practice. Chapter four examines the problem raised by the issue of treatment withdrawal or passive euthanasia and proposes a framework for its resolution. Chapters five and six deal with the issues raised by active intervention to end life in the medical context. Chapter five examines the issue of active euthanasia and chapter six analyses the related but discrete area of assisted suicide. Chapter seven contains the review and conclusions, and tentatively suggests that a more patient-oriented approach be taken by the law in resolving such dilemmas.
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