How will these resources help you? 

Assisted dying and euthanasia are important topics in KS4 and KS5, especially considering their relevance in current discussion and recent legalisation in many liberal countries. Most sixth-form students are fascinated by these topics and often come into the classroom with strong views. However, the ethical issues around assisted dying and euthanasia are often conflated and over-simplified, and they are presented as simple dichotomies: religious versus non-religious or autonomy versus paternalism. The reality is much more complicated. Viewing a range of arguments from nuanced thinkers on these topics can really help students to understand them in more depth and see how ethics can be mind-bending and apparently ‘progressive’ politics may not always be preserving rights. 

A compassionate Christian perspective

Right To Die?: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide And End-Of-Life Care

by John Wyatt, published by Inter-Varsity Press, (2015), 9781783593866

Wyatt, a well-known Christian ethicist, takes a fresh look at whether we do have a ‘right to die’. Spoiler: he argues that, ultimately, this is more a wrong than a right. He focuses on the idea of compassion as nourishing vulnerability and is saddened by our twenty-first-century need to remain strong at the expense of our humanity. This is an accessible book for sixth-formers, and teachers should encourage them to read it if they are doing dissertations on this topic. Teachers could also discuss his arguments in class. From a secular perspective, students often see his approach to ethics as more sympathetic than a strict Catholic or deontological view while remaining socially conservative. 

More than just religious versus non-religious perspectives

Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization

by Kevin Yuill, published by Palgrave Macmillan, (2013), 9781137286307

Yuill does precisely what he sets out to do, explaining a range of arguments against assisted dying from a non-religious perspective. Students often dismiss the more sanctity-based religious arguments, so Yuill’s focus on equality, compassion and autonomy comes across as a lot more sympathetic to them. 

Thought-provoking case studies

The Inevitable: Dispatches on the Right to Die

by Katie Engelhart, published by St Martin’s Griffin, (2021), 9781250827968

 | This book is based on personal and often heart-rending case studies where assisted dying seems like the most compassionate option. This is lyrically written and thought-provoking. Students will really appreciate the human element, and teachers could recommend it to those completing dissertations in this area.

Preference utilitarian view: why not do euthanasia too?

Practical Ethics (3rd edition)

by Peter Singer, published by Cambridge University Press, (2011), 9780521707688

This is a go-to book for an extreme preference towards the utilitarian opinion on most medical ethics issues. Singer is equivocal about when active involuntary euthanasia should be allowed but otherwise argues that active euthanasia is generally a more morally acceptable option than either passive euthanasia or assisted dying. He goes much further than most lawmakers would ever want to. Still, students will find his extreme views interesting and often consider whether he exemplifies the ‘slippery slope’ that is so often associated with this topic. 

Audiovisual clip

Sunday Morning Live - Should we be able to choose when we die?

published by BBC One, (2015)

A terminally ill woman explains why she would benefit from legal assisted dying practices.

Further Materials

Explaining Catholic Teaching on Euthanasia by Philip Robinson, published by Catholic Truth Society, (2003), 9781860821912 Find this book
Humanhood by Joseph Fletcher, published by Prometheus Books, (1979), 9781615929184 Find this book
Causing Death and Saving Lives by Jonathan Glover, published by Penguin, (1990), 9780140134797 Find this book
Susan Woodshore is a teacher in Edinburgh. She has a PhD in Ecclesiastical History and enjoys creating new educational resources across religion, ethics and philosophy.

Text © Susan Woodshore, 2023.