Euthanasia: A Denial of Sense
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 2001; 20(2): 313-328
Is active euthanasia an expression of respect for human dignity and freedom or not? Liberal utilitarians and catholic personalists differ on this question because they use different concepts of freedom and have different attitudes to whether life has a sense beyond material utility. While the former can claim that one has no duty to go on living an unpleasant and useless life against one's will, for the latter even a materially substandard life is a chance for spiritual growth not to be discarded because human suffering is meaningful too, and not a mere senseless disutility. Patient autonomy will not, for a personalist doctor, imply a duty to fulfil the patient's wish for euthanasia, because his moral duty towards his own soul overrides all other considerations. The threshold argument, commonly appealed to by personalists against legalizing euthanasia, should not be interpreted as a factual conjecture of the worst possible scenario but rather as a principal claim according to which a state which lets citizens to be reified as means for utility is thereby already entirely immoral.
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