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Professor Vera Bergelson’s Stoffer Lecture to Discuss the Problem of Consensual Physical Harm

January 15, 2008 – 

Vera Bergelson, Professor of Law and Robert E. Knowlton Scholar at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, will deliver the 2008 David J. Stoffer Lecture on Tuesday, January 29, at 6 pm in the Baker Trial Courtroom. Her topic is “Autonomy, Dignity, and Consent to Harm.”

Professor Bergelson will discuss one of the most controversial issues in criminal law and moral philosophy, namely, people’s right to consent to pain, injury or death. The issue has recently moved to the forefront of public, legislative, and academic debates in the United States and abroad due to several high-profile criminal trials and investigations that involved consenting victims in various contexts – from experimental medical treatment and mercy killing to sadomasochism and even cannibalism. As a rule, American criminal law does not recognize consent of the victim to infliction of serious physical harm as a defense. This rule has been criticized for its arbitrary scope, outdated rationales, and potential for moralistic manipulation. Professor Bergelson’s scholarship is an attempt to develop a set of normative requirements for a new rule governing consensual physical harm and a general defense of consent.

A member of the Rutgers-Newark law faculty since 2001, Professor Bergelson is a cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her scholarship includes the book Victims, Offenders, and Comparative Responsibility, due to be published by Stanford University Press in 2008. She teaches Criminal Law, Property, International Law, Property and Privacy, and the Moral Puzzles of Criminal Law.

What:  2008 David J. Stoffer Lecture
Who: Professor Vera Bergelson, Rutgers School of Law–Newark
Topic: “Autonomy, Dignity, and Consent to Harm”
When: 6 pm, Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Where: Baker Trial Courtroom (1st floor), Rutgers School of Law–Newark

Background: David Stoffer (1899-1960) taught for many years at Rutgers School of Law–Newark and one of its predecessor schools, Mercer Beasley Law School. The David J. Stoffer Memorial Fund, established in 1961 by his widow, Ruth, supports lectures and other activities that are designed to enrich the intellectual life of Rutgers Law School and the legal community.