Debate surrounding the 1994 Oregon Death with Dignity Act, the first law to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in America, revealed some surprising contradictions. Most prominently, egalitarian liberal philosophers Ronald Dworkin and John Rawls backed a constitutional right to PAS in direct opposition to many groups of disadvantaged citizens they theoretically supported. These groups argued that legalized PAS in the absence of universal access to health care would potentially coerce the disadvantaged to end their lives prematurely because of inadequate financial resources. In ""Liberalism's Troubled Search for Equality"", Robert P. Jones asks why these concerns were dismissed by liberal philosophers and argues that this contradiction exposes a blind spot within liberal political theory. Drawing on ethnographic interviews with activists and using PAS as a diagnostic tool, he argues that an egalitarian liberalism must abandon its overconfidence in its own neutrality, which undermines its ability to see the real needs and hear the actual voices of those it promises to champion. This correction would challenge liberals to see PAS differently, through a social justice frame of equality and inclusion rather than through an allegedly neutral frame of individual choice borrowed from the abortion debates. Jones further argues that giving up claims to neutrality will require liberalism and progressive politics to come to terms with an area of human culture that has long caused them uneasiness: religion. Jones argues that religious and other thick moral languages are not primarily problems but potential resources for helping liberalism stay true to its egalitarian aspirations. Jones brings together ethnography, political and social theory, and public policy analysis to offer a fresh perspective on the difficult issue of physician-assisted suicide. At the same time, Jones challenges progressives to find the heart of the liberal tradition not in arguments about liberty rooted in the abortion debates but in a renewed commitment to equality and social justice. He argues that egalitarian liberals ought to oppose physician-assisted suicide - at least until we find the political will to ensure access to health care for all.
Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
Number of pages: 312
Weight: 467 g
Dimensions: 230 x 154 x 19 mm
"In this engrossing study of debates over physician-assisted suicide, Jones has issued a challenge to liberals. The old idea that liberalism is morally neutral and culturally unbiased will have to be discarded. But in doing so, liberals just may find allies among religious and other voices fighting for equality."--Amy Sullivan, The Washington Monthly
"Examining the legal debates surrounding Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, [Jones] argues that liberal theorists such as Ronald Dworkin, whom he otherwise admires, are wrong to weigh in on the side of physician-assisted suicide. The cause of their error, he argues, is a failure to recognize the cultural biases that help socially determine suicide choices. This failure is connected with a failure to fully articulate the commitment to egalitarianism suggested by Dworkin's own conception of 'equality of resources.'"--SciTech Book News, September 1, 2007