Bioethics News

Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court: His Bioethical Perspectives

By: Ashwini Nagappan

Neil Gorsuch was announced as President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court on 31st January 2017, leading many to examine his stance on prevailing controversial issues, such as end-of-life care and abortion. Answers may be found in his 2006 book, ‘The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia’, which showcases his opinion against euthanasia and the right to die. Whilst he is religious, his book relies not on theological arguments but well-substantiated, academic and philosophical principals to support his position. Should he be confirmed, many in the field will watch his progress with interest.

As he approaches the debate from his DPhil, Gorsuch claims, “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” Currently, the AMA allows physicians to withhold treatment and let patients die, but does not allow any direct intervention that would kill the patient, which is a system Gorsuch agrees with. But, there is a moral significance that differentiates both intentional acts of killing and letting die. When death is the lesser of two evils, perhaps it is permissible to provide a treatment that would reduce their pain, but still lead to their death. It may be more humane to quickly kill someone than put them through a slow, painful death.

Further, Gorsuch argues that institutionalizing a right to die might make people worse off. By giving patients this choice, they are deprived of not having a choice to make. They are now obliged to make a decision that once was not even existent.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.