Application of the Hart-Devlin debate to the ideas and arguments raised in ‘Legalising assisted dying would be a failure of collective human memory and imagination’


  • Jessica Hurwood Northumbria University



The Hart-Devlin debate centres upon the strongly contested issue of whether or not the law should enforce morality. The debate between these two figures was sparked by the Wolfenden Report of 1957, which concluded that due to the importance of individual freedom, ‘there must remain a realm of private morality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law’s business’. The progression of our society into a more liberal entity has led to the argument that Hart, widely regarded as the twentieth century’s greatest British legal philosopher, has ultimately superseded Devlin in this debate. Therefore, this essay shall re-examine each side of the debate in light of the changing legal landscape, specifically with reference to the public opinion on legalising euthanasia. The examination will seek to determine whether Hart’s liberal approach has in fact prevailed, or whether society is more inclined to accept the more conservative approach advocated by Devlin.