A physician decides not to prolong the life of a terminal patient. What are the legal consequences? Is it murder, akin to a gunman's pulling the trigger? Or is the law more sensitive? Professor Fletcher proposes that a decision to interrupt life-sustaining therapy, such as that to turn off a mechanical respirator, should be classified as an omission, not an act. He arrives at this conclusion by analyzing the common sense usages of "cause" and "permit." If the decision is an omission then the law must focus on the doctor-patient relationship to define legal consequences, allowing customary standards of the relationship to be the controlling criteria. Thus a heavy responsibility is placed on the medical profession to develop humane and sensitive standards for guiding decisions about prolonging life.
George P. Fletcher,
42 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol42/iss4/18