Media Representations of Euthanasia

Hausman, Elke. 2003. Media Representations of Euthanasia. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

For some time now there has been a divergence between public support for euthanasia and its illegal status within British law as well as its rejection by the medical profession. There have been a number of studies of public opinion, and there already exists a wealth of expert literature on the topic, by lawyers, health professionals and philosophers. This thesis argues that the newspaper coverage of euthanasia can be seen as a site where these expert discourses and lay discourses meet. The supporting data consists of a complete enumeration of articles containing the word 'euthanasia' which appeared in British newspapers over a 12-month period from November 1998 to October 1999. These documents were analysed using various forms of narrative analysis and discourse analysis. It was found that whilst both expert discussions and newspaper articles use similar concepts and categories to represent the meaning and practice of euthanasia, there are subtle but significant differences between these discussions. Newspapers also apply these categories in more grounded but less qualified ways. In particular, the 'voluntary euthanasia discourse', which is fundamental for experts, is less important in newspaper articles, where it is secondary to what I call a 'terminal illness discourse'. In that discourse, terminal illness becomes the marker that justifies euthanasia, over and above the concerns of experts. Both the 'voluntary euthanasia discourse' and the 'terminal illness discourse' address issues of agency and responsibility, but they approach these concerns from different assumptions. A striking feature of newspaper articles is that their discussion of euthanasia in terms of moral universals is grounded in the rhetoric of a world divided into nations.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Media, Euthanasia, Meaning and Practice, Public Opinion, British Law

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Date Deposited:

07 Jul 2020 10:40

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2020 10:40


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