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On a Path Toward International Recognition: Physician-Assisted Suicide as an Emerging Human Rights Norm

Schmitz, Lucy

Physician-assisted suicide is a form of end-of-life care wherein a doctor provides a lethal dose of medication for a patient to use of his or her own volition, which has become increasingly legalized since 1994. This trend in legalization, the convincing human rights-based arguments in favor of physician-assisted suicide, and the comportment of the practice with existing international human rights law and norms leads to two core claims. First, I argue that access to physician-assisted suicide is itself a right even though it is not codified in any treaty because it is an emerging norm. Second, based on an observed trend toward accelerated legalization in increasing numbers states, and because of trends in public opinion around this issue and related topics such as political and religious affiliation, I foresee that legalization will continue apace, and accelerate in the coming decades, solidifying physician-assisted suicide as an internationally protected human right. The central contribution of this work is extending the existing human rights argument for physician-assisted to make the stronger claim that physician-assisted suicide is a right, and to predict the future of legalization and norm-creation around this form of end-of life care.

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Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
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