Several US states are enacting 'right-to-die' laws, in the wake of the Karen Quinlan case. But the way such a law is drafted may cast doubt on a patient's existing common law right to control all aspects of his own treatment; it may give legal sanction to a lower standard of medical care that society at present expects from doctors; and it may lead to conflict between the patient's directive and his doctor's clinical judgement which cannot readily be resolved. The laws themselves are categorised as a) legalising active killing or b) defining rights of patients to control treatment or c) assigning to others the rights to control treatment where the patient is not competent. The California law is discussed critically. The conclusion is that such legislation is not a satisfactory answer to the ethical problem of euthanasia.
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