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In chapter one, I argue for the important contribution that a natural law based framework can make towards an analysis of key controversies surrounding the practices of suicide, assisted suicide, and voluntary euthanasia. In the second chapter, I consider a number of historical contributions to the debate. The third chapter takes up the modern context of ideas that have increasingly come to the fore in shaping the ‘push’ for reform. Particular areas focused upon include the value of human life, the value of personal autonomy, and the rejection of double effect reasoning. In chapter four, I engage in the task of pointing out structural weakness in utilitarianism and deontology. I argue that major systemic weaknesses in both approaches can be overcome by a teleology of basic human goods. In chapter five, I proceed to argue for the defence of the intrinsic good of human life from direct attack. I hold out for the proposition “that it is always a serious moral wrong to intentionally kill a human person, whether self or another, regardless of a further appeal to consequences or motive.” In chapter six, I critically assess the arguments of anti-perfectionists that it is not the business of the state to enforce deep or substantive conceptions of the ‘good life’. The chapter moves on to argue that the natural law conception of the person in society, centred on the common good, provides a solid framework for assessing both the justification for, as well as the limits on, the role of the state to use its power to legally impose certain moral standards. In chapter seven, I address the concrete relationship between natural law and legal policy by exploring the issue of assisted suicide in the constitutional context of the United States.

About the Author
Contemporary philosopher with a special interest in bioethics. Educated at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland; University of Edinburgh, Scotland; University of York, England; Saint Louis University, USA. He has previously held teaching appointments at Saint Louis University, USA and Providence College, USA. He is currently an independent scholar. Paterson is a significant contributor to contemporary discourse on biomedical ethics in the natural law tradition, especially in the areas of assisted suicide, euthanasia and killing and letting die. He adopts a revised non-naturalist approach to natural law ethics influenced by the practical reasoning approach of Aquinas, the intuitionalism of G.E. Moore, and others.

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