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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 5, 1979

Susan Mattingly
Pages 215-234

The Right to Health Care and the Right to Die

To establish a frame of reference for addressing the right to die question, I use Rawls's theory of justice to derive principles for the just distribution of health care —a primary good with distinctive attributes requiring distribution according to need, with lesser needs having priority. Where resources run out, or where care no longer functions as a primary good, the right to health care ends. This scheme of health care rights allows us to define three senses in which a patient may be said to have a right to die: he may lack the moral right to treatment necessary to life; he may have that right but choose not to exercise it; or he may have a moral right to treatment which shortens life.