Few things in life are as certain as death. Yet few topics are as fraught with uncertainty as the question of when to let a severely ill person die. At a time when the cost of end-of-life care continues to rise exponentially, a wide range of stakeholders—doctors and patients, politicians and advocates, policy wonks and academics—debate constantly over the morality of limiting end-of-life medical treatment.

Roi Livne, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California,...

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