Policy Sciences

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 313–334 | Cite as

Between morality and rationality: framing end-of-life care policy through narratives

  • Nathalie Burlone
  • Rebecca Grace Richmond
Research Article


This paper analyzes the nature of the debate generated prior to the implementation of the Act Respecting End-of-Life Care in 2015 in Québec (Canada). Including medical assistance in dying (MAID) along existing palliative care services, the act is an important policy change on a very sensitive issue. As such, MAID could be categorized as a morality policy issue, the latter being defined as a particular category of policy because of its specific features (issues of first principle, technical simplicity, high salience, public interest, and public participation). In line with Mucciaroni’s proposition, we rather analyze this issue by understanding morality policy as one of two framing strategies (moral and/or rational-instrumental frame). Our research reconstructs four public opinion framings as advanced and transmitted through the media between 2005 and 2015. It shows that although opponents to the bill unsurprisingly framed the debate in deontological terms, mostly referring to sanctity of life as one of the most important values in society, they also framed it on rational-instrumental grounds in a similar proportion, alleging the danger of a slippery slope and potential abuse. As well, if some of the proponents favored a moral framing centered on the argument that dignity and individual autonomy take precedence over all other values, others put forward a rational-instrumental one, where the slippery slope/abuse argument is used as a cautionary statement against the artificial prolongation of life. Our analysis reinforces Mucciaroni’s and Ferraiolo’s assertions that sensitive issues classified as morality policy cannot be apprehended solely through the unidimensional frame of morality.


End-of-life Medical assistance in dying Public policy Framing Morality policy 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Political StudiesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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