Human Exceptionalism

Media Clueless on “Right to Die” Term

The BBC has an inappropriate “right to die” headline over a story involving the tragic case of a woman who died after refusing a blood transfusion because her of faith as a Jehovah’s Witness. In fact, the woman did not want to die. And the story acknowledges the case actually involved the right to refuse treatment.

The UK places great emphasis on respecting the religious convictions of patients – and increasingly the doctors who treat them too.

There is nothing medics can do when an adult refuses treatment on religious grounds, says Vivienne Nathanson, head of ethics at the British Medical Association.

“It’s something we just have to live with – the alternative would be to change the law, change the human rights law,” she says. “It’s just too important that we all as individuals are able to make our own decisions.”

So why not get the headline right? More people will see that than read the actual story–thereby perpetuating the false notion that there is such a thing as a right to die. There isn’t, of course. Even in Oregon and the Netherlands where assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal respectively, no patient has the “right” to receive life termination. Rather, the doctors have the right not to be punished if they agree to participate. Hence, no one has a legally enforceable right to be killed.

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