DEATH BY CHOICE by Daniel C. Maguire
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The most eloquently reasoned discussion of who shall live or who should die (by a professor of theology at Marquette University) since Glanville Williams' more narrowly argued The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law (1970) in which our time has accelerated the whole question of moral choices versus legal or medical decisions. Professor Maguire is writing for the new gerontological age where we cannot necessarily consider that life is the equivalent of living -- and who is to determine what life is (the heart's still beating? the lungs breathing?). His introductory sections deal with both medicine and the law -- there are a good many recent referrals to incidents in and out of the amphitheater and the courtroom -- and the law seems most particularly out of joint. In a broader sense, Maguire next deals with the ""moral dominion"" over death -- complex, frightening, unavoidable, and the counterarguments to letting go, helping to let go (the domino theory, playing God, They shoot horses, don't they). But then -- if we decide that it is both moral and good to take a life (""the principle is a good principle and the exception a good exception"") who is to make the decision? He feels it is the family of the casualty involved always providing that the motivation is on a higher level. In any case, dealing with an issue which is loaded with entrenched, sanctimonious thinking as well as its own innate cloudy distinctions and dusty uncertainties -- Maguire has written a book which should increase our levels of awareness and humanity.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1974
Publisher: Doubleday