Accessible version | Skip to content | Change your text size

Table of contents

Previous pageNext page

Supporting your claims

Click on the highlighted text to see the comments.

There are usually a number of ways in which you could support a claim you make, but not all carry equal weight. You need to carefully consider what reasons or evidence carry the most weight in your law assignment.

An essay on active voluntary euthanasia argues that one reason for permitting active euthanasia is because active euthanasia is accepted by the public at large. Look at the following statements from student essays which both make the same point.

  1. Current law prohibiting active euthanasia is unacceptable because the majority of the population accept active euthanasia, (Waller, L. and Williams, C.R., Criminal Law: Texts and Cases 1997) and law that does not reflect community values will lose the respect of the community.
  1. Current law prohibiting active euthanasia is unacceptable because it contradicts a basic principle upon which Criminal Law is based, that criminal culpability should serve community interests and values (Waller, L. and Williams, C.R., Criminal Law: Texts and Cases 1997) and community values in this case support active euthanasia.

Which of the above provides better support from a legal perspective for the claim that current law prohibiting active euthanasia is unacceptable? Why?

Check your answer


Both are good reasons for stating present law is unacceptable. However, Option A presents the inconsistency of law with popular opinion only as a practical problem (not of law but of social cohesion), whereas Option B links it to existing law, in this case to a legal principle. Therefore Option B would normally have more weight from a legal perspective. The first might carry greater weight in a sociology or criminology assignment.

In current law, the primary focus in determining the legal permissibility of medical end-of-life decisions is on the subjective intentions of doctors, but some people argue the primary focus should no longer be on doctor intention. Below are two of a number of reasons given:

Which reason do you think would have more weight from a legal perspective?

  1. it is difficult to establish precisely what a doctor intended
  2. the focus on doctor intention fails to take into account what a patient wants, and this is very difficult to justify morally.

Check your answer


Both could have legal significance, but you would need to establish what that is. Reason B may have more emotional weight, but this in itself does not make it a powerful reason for changing the law. Reason A can easily be linked to a legal concern: What value is a law if it cannot be applied? Reason B would require more discussion, in which you would need to show why a moral concern in this case is grounds for changing the law.

Of course political, social, moral, and other reasons for changing the law can be important, depending on the context of your discussion. However, you do need to consider which reasons will carry most weight. These should be dealt with first, and secondary ones dealt with subsequently if necessary.

word outputDownload a printable version of this page (.doc)
Problems? Questions? Comments? Please provide us feedback.