Questions of Law, Morality and Ethics within Contemporary Society

This work provides a close examination of the definitional issues surrounding euthanasia, and analyses euthanasia as a ‘living phenomenon’ which can be best understood by reflecting upon subjective understandings of the subject and individuals’ lived experiences of their medical conditions and treatment. The work addresses not only the law surrounding voluntary active euthanasia, but also the withdrawal of treatment from incapacitated patients, the refusal of treatment by competent patients, and the subject of advance directives. Additionally the work takes a comparative approach to euthanasia laws in the Netherlands and Australia in order to illustrate the differing legal and ethical positions that exist. The work includes a small empirical study which takes forward some of the central issues by placing them in the contextual setting provided by members of the medical profession, hospice staff, general public, and voluntary and anti-euthanasia society members.


“ ... an admirable examination of the legal, ethical and moral debates ... The exposition and analysis of the law is placed within a wider context, having regard to moral, ethical and medical considerations, with systematic referencing…. its important insights should be of interest both to readers unfamiliar with the central concepts and contours of the debates and to specialists in the field. The comparative dimension – where the approach to the phenomenon adopted in the UK, the Netherlands, and the Northern Territory of Australia is analysed – is revealing, informed and effective ... A further strength of the work lies in its examination of the legitimacy of the relevant law, which is coupled with a forceful use of a range of theoretical perspectives.” – Dr. Ian Bryan, Lancaster University Law School

“Dr. Ost provides a fresh and compelling perspective to the problem and tackles the challenge of suggesting legislative proposals, which would create a more coherent legal framework for those who manage death and dying than is at present the case.” – Kathy Doyle, Senior Lecturer

“ ... Dr. Ost’s book is a positive addition to the euthanasia bibliography; the study at the end is part of an empirical investigation, which we do not, as a rule, see in legal books, even those touching upon a matter so closely connected with reality like this topic ... Dr. Ost certainly contributes to a discussion on a matter which, as other central topics of medical law and ethics, will probably continue for a long time.” – European Journal of Health Law, 2005

"All in all this is an impressive work in terms of breadth and general thrust. It urges the embrace of a new paradigm in this sphere with the emphasis on beneficience and patient autonomy." Medical Law Review

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Understanding and Defining the Euthanasia Phenomenon
3. ‘Allowing’ Death: Withdrawing Treatment from the Permanently Unconscious Patient
4. Autonomous Death: The Competent Patient and Advance Directives
5. Administering Death: Voluntary Euthanasia through the Administration of Lethal Treatment
6. Alternative Legal and Societal Conceptions of Euthanasia: A Comparative Analysis of Euthanasia Laws in the Netherlands and the Northern Territory of Australia
7. Conclusion and Implications of this Work
Appendix: The Findings of an Empirical Study upon Perceptions of the Euthanasia Phenomenon held by a Sample of Individuals and Groups within UK Society
Table of Cases; Table of Legislation
Selected Bibliography