The legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide: a tale of two scenarios

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The legalising or decriminalising of certain behaviour ‘of ambiguous morality’ (Garland, 2001) is often not just a matter of erasing a law from the statute books. Instead it usually involves a shift in governance, so that the criminal justice system is no longer the locusof control but that other formsof governance come into play. The case of euthanasia and assisted suicide is good example. Its legalisation in the US state of Oregon, and in both the Netherlands and Belgium has meant that certain typesof medical life-ending behaviours (when criteria are met) are no longer the criminal justice system’s business. In addition, review bodies have come into play to oversee practice. Their composition and remit differs between the three jurisdictions, but all are examplesof what Boutellier might call transferral (Boutellier, 2000). Legalisation tends to mean that the control function is (partly) removed from the criminal justice system and transferred to other bodies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-84
Number of pages14
JournalThe International Journal of the Sociology of Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


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