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Title: A right to die? : examining the centrality of human rights discourses to end of life policy and debate in the UK
Author: Young, Sharon
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 3634
Awarding Body: Kingston University
Current Institution: Kingston University
Date of Award: 2017
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Death and dying are emerging as substantial topics for political and social debate in contemporary UK society. The management of end of life, traditionally defined within a medical model of care, is being challenged by a cultural shift that is apparent in the changing trajectory of dying, increasing healthcare consumerism and a rising human rights rhetoric. To a significant extent, liberty to determine one’s own death, and to request assistance to die, has come to be articulated by some as a “right to die”. Human rights discourses grounded in the values of dignity and freedom of choice are important and relevant to dying in the UK. These discourses have the potential to influence law and policy, practices and public opinion on end of life. However, there is no sociological analysis of how or when rights have come to be appropriated in an end of life context and no explanation of in what way, or to what extent, social actors are using rights discourses in relation to death and dying. This research explores the centrality of human rights discourses to end of life policy and debate on assisted death in the UK. A broad social constructionist approach to rights is taken to illuminate the ways in which selected actors understand and articulate rights in an end of life context, and how, as a result of this, a right to die may be conceived. It includes the examination of: current UK law and policy documents; transcripts of the historical and contemporary House of Lords debates; a case study of a highly influential organisation (Dignity in Dying) who campaign to legalise assisted dying, and three focus group discussions with Death Café Hampstead participants. Analysis of the data reveals that rights discourses involving individual liberty, dignity and human vulnerability are central to defining the end of life debate and policy. A notion of rights at the end of life has impacted our perception of dying but in ways that are complex, and arise as a reflection of dying at a specific period in time.
Supervisor: Miller, Hannah ; Spencer, Philip Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Law ; Politics and international studies ; Social work and social policy and administration ; Sociology