Reflections on the State of Current Debate Over Physician- Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
Bioethics. 1995 Jul; 9(3/4): 313-326.
This paper is part of a larger project. My overall aim is to argue that the evolution of familiar forms of termination of life sustaining treatment, constituting so called passive euthanasia, has severely undercut the logic of every form of reasoning that has traditionally been used to oppose active euthanasia and assistance in suicide. Basically, there are two such forms of traditional opposition, each represented in a range of different versions. There is the inevitable argument concerning social utilities -- that permitting euthanasia and assisted suicide will have bad social consequences. But more fundamentally, the idea persists that killing is intrinsically worse than letting-die in some sense that justifies the current practice of prohibiting the first while allowing the latter. In this paper, I first consider this latter claim. My ultimate strategy, as I have said, is to show that the nature of certain things we have all come to approve regarding termination of treatment makes it next to impossible to convincingly explain, in either of these ways, what is wrong with certain forms of assistance in suicide and euthanasia. In the second part of this paper I take another step in this direction by discussing, in a preliminary way, a special case of the argument from social risks.
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