Older Lesbians, Gay Men and the ‘Right to Die’ Debate: ‘I Always Keep a Lethal Dose of Something, Because I don’t Want to Become an Elderly Isolated Person’

Sue Westwood*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers the ‘right to die’ debate from the perspectives of older lesbians and gay men, drawing upon data gathered for a PhD in law. My argument is that older lesbians and gay men are multiply disadvantaged (a) by an increased risk of feeling that life is not worth living due to affective inequalities (inadequate informal and formal social support) and (b) by a denial of access to the right to die both under such circumstances and/or if they wish to resist the normativities associated with a passive, medicalized death. I argue for the need to distinguish between a wish to die because of deficiencies in the care system and a wish to die in order to control how, when and where one’s life ends. My analysis highlights the contextual contingencies of ‘vulnerability’ in relation to the right to die and interrogates the heterosexist and disciplinary reproductive normativities underpinning the notions of ‘natural’ deaths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-628
Number of pages23
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number5
Early online date31 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Assisted dying
  • euthanasia
  • inequality
  • older lesbians and gay men
  • vulnerability
  • ‘right to die’

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