It wasn’t much of a Christmas vacation.
But an intensive period of research over the holiday break resulted in the publication of a book, “Point/ Counterpoint: The Right to Die,” by John Ferguson of Brownwood, associate professor of political science and assistant director of the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom at Howard Payne University.
“I try to present both sides of the right-to-die issue as accurately and as scholarly as possible,” Ferguson said. “The book doesn’t come to any conclusion, but it shows that it’s not all that clear-cut. Each side has a valid argument.”
The book examines the debate surrounding an issue that has gained public attention since the controversial Florida case involving Terri Schiavo.
Ferguson’s book is part of a larger series by Chelsea House Publishing of New York on a list of controversial issues in public policy, exploring topics such as election reform, capital punishment, animal rights and censorship, among others. The 42-volume set geared towards high school- and college-age students is written by different scholars in an array of public policy fields.
“I show each side of that issue, provide an introduction to them and look ahead to the future of the debate,” Ferguson said.
In his book, Ferguson offers a fully-documented presentation of the questions raised about the right-to-die through advances in modern medicine, legal precedent and constantly changing end-of-life scenarios. It studies the differing viewpoints on the existence of such a right and their implications for increasingly complex end-of-life decisions. The book also offers a discussion of significant legislation surrounding the issue as well as various court cases relevant to the debate.
Ferguson said a colleague referred the publisher to him after another writer was unable to produce a manuscript on the topic for the publisher, which specializes in nonfiction books for school- and college-age readers. But a deadline was looming.
“I only had about two weeks over the Christmas break,” Ferguson said.
He hired an Academy of Freedom student to assist him with research, and the volume on a fast-track for completion.
“It’s a very short book, only about 100 pages,” Ferguson said. “I was continually paring down the information I wanted to put into it.”
Ferguson said the books in the series, including his volume, are written from a secular standpoint, but that he did deal with the religious issues that enter the debate concerning right-to-die.
“I tried to be very objective, and included arguments made from different faith perspectives,” Ferguson said. “I quoted them, and didn’t speak for them.”
The book draws on numerous court cases on the subject, major broadcast and published sources and works by other scholars on the topic.
Ferguson said he has addressed the topic in classes and other academic setting before, but never to the degree that he did in writing the book.
Ferguson earned his M.T.S. and J.D. degrees from Vanderbilt University’s Divinity and Law Schools and is a member of the bar in Tennessee and Washington, D.C. His extensive research experience in matters of Constitutional law, church-state relations, civil rights, education law and policy and modern religious movements has gained hearing with national media.
Prior to joining the HPU faculty in 2003, he served as education coordinator at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn., in addition to practicing private law. He has also been a guest lecturer for many graduate and undergraduate programs across the country.
Ferguson’s other works include co-authorship of The First Amendment in Schools (First Amendment Center, 2003), contributing work for Religion and Democracy (Kent State University Press, 2004) and multiple journal articles including “The Courts’ Inconsistent Treatment of Bethel v. Fraser and the Curtailment of Student Rights” (John Marshall Law Review 181, 2002) and “Religion in Public Schools: What Does the Law Say?” (Social Studies Review: Journal of the California Council for the Social Studies, Spring/Summer 2001). Also, he served as Associate Editor for Finding Common Ground: A First Amendment Guide to Religion and Public Education (First Amendment Center, 2003).