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The Law and Ethics of Medicine - Essays on the Inviolability of Human Life
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The Law and Ethics of Medicine - Essays on the Inviolability of Human Life

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Published 28 March 2012 (OUP)
ISBN: 9780199589555. Hard Cover, 416 pages.

John Keown 

  • Provides a unique, expert and clear guide to a foundational principle of medical law: the sanctity/inviolability of human life 
  • Considers the principle's continuing relevance to the law governing medical practice at the beginning and end of life 
  • Critically analyses the extent to which medical law consistently instantiates the principle of the inviolability of life 
  • Offers an overview of the principle by bringing together and updating some of author's key publications which are complemented by new essays addressing topical issues 
  • Addresses landmark, controversial cases and legislation in the law and ethics of medicine, including Roe v. Wade, Airedale NHS Trust v. Bland, the Abortion Act 1967 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 
The Law and Ethics of Medicine: Essays on the Inviolability of Human Life explains the principle of the inviolability of human life and its continuing relevance to English law governing aspects of medical practice at the beginning and end of life. The book shows that the principle, though widely recognized as an historic and foundational principle of the common law, has been misunderstood in the legal academy, at the Bar and on the Bench. 

Part I of the book identifies the confusion and clarifies the principle, distinguishing it from 'vitalism' on the one hand and a 'qualitative' evaluation of human life on the other. 

Part II addresses legal aspects of the beginning of life, including the history of the law against abortion and its relevance to the ongoing abortion debate in the US; the law relating to the 'morning after' pill; and the legal status of the human embryo in vitro. 

Part III addresses legal aspects of the end of life, including the euthanasia debate; the withdrawal of tube-feeding from patients in a 'persistent vegetative state'; and the duty to provide palliative treatment. 

This unique collection of essays offers a much-needed clarification of a cardinal legal and ethical principle and should be of interest to lawyers, bioethicists, and healthcare professionals (whether they subscribe to the principle or not) in all common law jurisdictions and beyond. 

Readership: Academic and practicing lawyers, particularly those specializing in medical law and family law; academics interested in legal aspects of bioethics; healthcare professionals; students of law, medicine, and nursing. 

John Keown, Rose Kennedy Professor, Kennedy Institute Of Ethics, Georgetown University 

John Keown holds the Rose Kennedy Chair in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, one of the world's premier centres of research into ethics. Having graduated in law from Cambridge he took a doctorate at Oxford and was then called to the Bar of England and Wales. Before being elected to the Rose Kennedy Chair he taught the law and ethics of medicine in the Faculty of Law at Cambridge, where he was a Fellow of Queens' College and of Churchill College. Professor Keown has written widely in the field of the law and ethics of medicine. His research has been cited by distinguished bodies worldwide, including the United States Supreme Court, the Law Lords, the House of Commons, the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics, and the Australian Senate, one of several bodies before which he has been invited to testify. He has served as a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association.

Table of Contents

Part I: (Mis)Understanding the Inviolability of Life 

1: The 'Sanctity of Life', 'Best Interests', and 'Autonomy': An Overview 

2: Surveying the Foundations of Medical Law: A Reassessment of Glanville Williams's The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law 

3: Sir Ian Kennedy and the Value of Life: Building on Glanville Williams's Shaky Foundations? 

4: Restoring the Inviolability of Life and Replacing the Caricature 

Part II: The Beginning of Life 

5: Back to the Future of Abortion Law: Roe's Rejection of America's History and Legal Traditions 

6: 'Morning After' Pills, 'Miscarriage', and Muddle 

7: The Scope of the Offense of Child Destruction 

8: The Human Embryo In Vitro: Person, Chattel or Dolphin? 

Part III: The End(ing) of Life 

9: The Euthanasia Debate in the House of Lords 

10: Towards Euthanasia in Europe? Marty, Pretty, and Purdy 

11: Palliative Care: An Ethical and Legal Duty? 

12: Restoring Moral and Intellectual Shape to the Law after Bland

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