Professor Emerita Bonnie Steinbock, who retired from SUNY Albany in 2014 after a long and distinguished career as one of the leading bioethicists of her generation, will be a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Values and Social Policy this fall from September 13 – October 13. She will give at least one talk, do some classroom presentations, and make herself available for a variety of additional interactions with faculty and students while she is here. Details on those events will follow. Among many other things, Professor Steinbock is the author of Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses, which Oxford University Press recently brought out in a second edition, and the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Bioethics. While in residence at the Center, she will be working on a project entitled: “Should Physician-Assisted Death Be Expanded to Include Psychiatric Conditions?” Here is a brief excerpt from her project description:
The project concerns defensible restrictions on physician-assisted death (PAD), which includes both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS). I discuss the broader category of PAD because I do not regard PAS as morally different from euthanasia, and also because I am looking beyond the United States, where euthanasia is everywhere illegal to Belgium and the Netherlands, where both are legal. The question of restrictions on PAD is not an issue for those who are completely opposed to it. Nor it is an issue for those who think that there should be no limits on PAD, at least for competent adults. It is a serious issue for those who accept PAD in principle, but are concerned about a slippery slope from acceptable to unacceptable uses. In this project, I will consider in greater depth the arguments for limiting PAD, focusing specifically on four issues: the requirement of terminal illness; the treatability/incurability of psychiatric illness; the effect of psychiatric conditions, such as severe depression, on competence to make medical decisions; and the expansion of PAD to “existential suffering” or being tired of life.