Law attempts to govern life and death through the appropriation of images which give a fantasy of control over death. The functioning of the thanatopolitical state is underpinned by a perceived control over death and its representation. This means of controlling death is challenged when someone wishes to die in an untimely fashion. Death may be timely when the State engages in the officially sanctioned killing of the death penalty but not when the individual assumes such a power to decide. When an individual goes before the law to obtain a right to die, instead of confronting death, legal institutions evade the issue and instead talk about life, and its sacred and inviolable nature. Yet, in the same move, many exceptions to this sacred quality of life are carved out. One can see an example of this phenomenon in the area of Supreme Court decision making on physician-assisted suicide. In Washington v. Glucksberg the applicants had died by the time of the Supreme Court’s decision. Where did they go? Were they ever really there for the law? The Supreme Court decision attempts to recompose the notion of identic wholeness in the face of bodies associated with death and decay. It is, in other words, an attempt to arrest the process of death by composing a narrative which valorises life. The case becomes a narrative about the threat to life or, more precisely, a threat to a particular way of life. In other words, the state’s interest in preserving life becomes the interest in preserving the life of the state. The state must live on. The question then moves from being one of whether the individual applicant in a case concerning physician-assisted suicide should live or die, to one which asks should we the court live or die?
Hanafin, P. (2003), "SURVIVING LAW: DEATH COMMUNITY CULTURE", Studies in Law, Politics and Society (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 97-115. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1059-4337(02)28004-7
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