In a humane society, should it be legal to help those who are suffering terribly to end their lives? Professor Emily Jackson tackles this provocative issue in the latest of a new series of public lectures that has been launched online.
Jackson, a professor of law, delivered 'Right to Die' one of three 'Burning Issues' lectures which are designed to showcase the social sciences to a non-academic audience.
In her lecture Professor Jackson looks at how the law deals with the issue of assisted dying. While there is an absolute prohibition on assisting someone to kill themselves in the UK, Jackson shows that the line drawn between lawful and unlawful practices which may lead to someone's death, is not clear cut. She asks whether the law draws the line between the right place.
The lecture includes a number of interviews with people whose lives are affected by these issues including Tony Nicklinson, who suffers from locked-in syndrome. Mr Nicklinson is currently seeking a ruling from the high court that a doctor could help end his life without being charged with murder.
Professor Jackson also interviews people who strongly believe that legalising assisted dying would be the first step on a very slippery slope. Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick from Not Dead Yet UK argues that legalising assisted suicide would put pressure on people with life-limiting conditions to end their lives prematurely, and would undermine efforts to improve social support services for disabled people.
Professor Jackson said: "One of the most interesting aspects of preparing for these lectures was going out and talking to some of the people whose interviews appear in the film. When giving a normal lecture, we often have to paraphrase what other people have said or what people with different perspectives think about a particular issue. This time, it was possible for other people to speak directly to the audience during the lecture, which I'm sure made their views come alive much more clearly and forcefully."
The lecture series also includes 'Parasites – enemy of the poor' by Tim Allen, Professor in Development Anthropology. Professor Allen questions the effectiveness of mass drug administration programmes, such as those supported by the UK government, in controlling debilitating parasitical infections in the developing world.
The final lecture 'The DNA of Human Rights' by Professor Conor Gearty, Professor of Human Rights law and a practising barrister, will be launched later this month.
The lectures were filmed in front of live audiences and are available online at: Burning Issue lectures
Professor Stuart Corbridge, Pro Director of Research and External Relations, said: "It's important that universities demonstrate their value to society and these online lectures are a great way to show broader audiences some of the relevant and timely issues that academics work on."
The Burning Issue Lectures are supported by the LSE Annual Fund and Cato Stonex
In December 2011 LSE launched an online lecture for a younger audience (11 – 14 year olds), modelled on the Royal Institution's Christmas lectures. In the LSE Big Questions lecture: 'East beats West? Is the East taking over the world?', Professor Danny Quah addresses the issue of the rising economic power of China and other Asian countries and asks whether we should be fearful of this.The lecture can be seen at Big Questions
Posted: Thursday 16 February