This chapter examines the legal context within which decisions about the end of life are made. It argues that an ethical approach to end-of-life care must be centred on the dying person and that finding ways to ensure that this person’s voice is heard must be core to the development of legal frameworks. In this respect, the law has, to date, been inadequate. It explores the ways decisions about the end of life are made in Ireland and identifies likely changes, including an increased formalisation of dying. Drawing on experiences from the United States and the United Kingdom, it develops arguments regarding the most appropriate decision-making structures within which to consider difficult questions around end-of-life care.
The Irish health system is confronted by a range of challenges, both emerging and recurring. In order to address these, it is essential that spaces are created for conversations around complex ethical and legal issues. This collection aims to provide a basis for ongoing engagement with selected issues in contemporary Irish health contexts. It includes contributions from scholars and practitioners across a range of disciplines, most particularly, ethics, law and medicine. The focus of the collection is interdisciplinary and the essays are situated at the intersection between ethics, law and medicine. Important issues addressed include admission to care homes; assisted suicide; adolescent decision-making; allocation of finite resources; conscientious objection; data protection; decision-making at the end of life; mental health; the rights of older people; patient responsibilities; stem cell research; the role of carers; and reproductive rights. From these discussion, the collection draws out the following interlinking themes, addressing difference; context and care; oversight and decision-making; and, regulating research. The essays are theoretically informed and are grounded in the realities of the Irish health system, by drawing on contributors’ contextual knowledge. This book makes an informed and balanced contribution to academic and broader public discourse.