Death + the Law Death Ethics

Bioethicists and Bioethics at the End of Life

A Life-or-Death Situation
by Robin Marantz Henig, New York Times Magazine (July 21, 2013)
As a bioethicist, Peggy Battin fought for the right of people to end their own lives. After her husband’s cycling accident, her field of study turned unbearably personal.


For Bioethicist With Ailing Spouse, End-Of-Life Issues Hit Home
Fresh Air with Terry Gross, National Public Radio (July 25, 2013)
In 2008, a cycling accident left bioethicist Margaret Battin’s husband quadriplegic and dependent on life support technology. The accident forced Battin, a right-to-die advocate, to reflect on the positions she’s taken in the past and decide whether she still believes in them.

Last week, the New York Times and the radio programme Fresh Air with Terry Gross ran really good stories on US Bioethicist Peggy Battin. Both pieces are linked to above, and both are worth reading/listening to.

Peggy Battin has written about and been involved in end-of-life and right to die cases for thirty years. Her writings have always focused on individual autonomy when choosing to die. What makes Battin’s work (which is good) all the more compelling is this–five years ago her husband Brooke had a bicycling accident that resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic. He also relies on life support machinery for assisted breathing and to keep him fed.

Both the Times article and the Fresh Air interview focus on how Battin’s ideas about the right to die have changed since her husband’s accident. She freely discusses her own desire to see her husband continue living, even though he may ultimately decide to finally end his life. And her thinking on all these issues opens up the nuance and complexity of discussing what kind of death and what quality of death, a loved one wants.

I highly recommend both the article and the radio interview.

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