Should judges decide on the right to die?

Biggar’s letter in full:

Deciding whether to invent a right to assisted suicide involves judgments about ethical issues and social effects. Judges, as experts in the law, have no special authority in either ethics or social prediction. They also necessarily suffer from forensic myopia, being able only to consider the evidence that litigating parties present. Unlike parliamentarians, they cannot commission comprehensive inquiries.

When parliament makes a controversial decision, dissenting citizens can forbear, knowing they have a political opportunity to reverse it. But when such a decision is made by unelected judges, the dissenter will view it as an act of tyranny. The judicial presumptuousness that Baroness Mallalieu commends would be the surest way to import America’s cultural civil war.

Nigel Biggar
Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral
Theology, University of Oxford

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