Ronald Dworkin on the Right to Euthanasia

The article tackles the problem of euthanasia from the perspective of the ideas developed by an American legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin. In the first part the essential elements of his conceptions are described. The most important is Dworkin’s view on the nature of the dispute concerning euthanasia and the distinction between a derivative and a detached understanding of the value of human existence. This part also lays out a classification of categories of people in respect of whom euthanasia could be applied and a division is made between experiential and critical interests, which in turn provides a basis for establishing the criteria for assessing the correctness of decisions involving the taking of the life of ill patients. Considerations are also made with regard to the seminal concepts in Dworkin’s system, such as autonomy, beneficence and dignity. The second part of the article presents a critique of arguments put forward by the author of “Life’s Dominion”. The main objection is directed against Dworkin’s understanding of the doctrine of sanctity of life. Additionally, the article points out shortcomings in his theory, including his insufficient discussion on slippery slope arguments, the principle of double effect, the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary medical procedures, and avoidance of consideration regarding the idea of palliative care. The paper ends with remarks about the need for reviewing the problem of euthanasia not from an extreme, individualistic viewpoint, as Dworkin does, but from a more social perspective.

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