Dalhousie Law Journal


abortion, euthanasia, individual freedom, common law, U.S. Supreme Court, women, pregnancy, rights


At its most abstract, Life's Dominion: An Argument about Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom is a meditation on the nature of individual freedom. However, as author Ronald Dworkin explains at the end of Chapter One, he believes in doing philosophy in much the same way common law jurists believe in doing law-from the inside out-that is, by starting with a concrete problem and then proceeding to the more general questions raised by that problem. According to Dworkin, this generates a theory that is appropriately tailored to the issue, "Savile Row" so to speak, rather than "Seventh Avenue," and thus a theory that is more likely to improve the quality of public debate. The crucible for Dworkin's theory in this instance is the debate over abortion and constitutional rights. Although euthanasia is discussed in the last two chapters of the book, it is not as comprehensively explored as the abortion issue. Indeed, it is plausible to read the book as an elaborate justification of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, Roe v. Wade, which Dworkin suggests may be the most famous case in America, if not the world. The majority in Roe v. Wade found that although women's constitutional privacy rights entitle them to choose to terminate a pregnancy, those rights diminish as their pregnancies progress in accordance with a trimester framework.