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Garcia, Jorge L. A., , . Health versus Harm: Euthanasia and Physicians’ Duties
2007, Journal of Medicine and Philsophy, 31 (1): 7-24.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: This essay rebuts Gary Seay’s efforts to show that committing euthanasia need not conflict with a physician’s professional duties. First, I try to show how his misunderstanding of the correlativity of rights and duties and his discussion of the foundation of moral rights undermine his case. Second, I show aspects of physicians’ professional duties that clash with euthanasia, and that attempts to avoid this clash lead to absurdities. For professional duties are best understood as deriving from professional virtues and the commitments and purposes with which the professional as such ought to act, and there is no plausible way in which her death can be seen as advancing the patient’s medical welfare. Third, I argue against Prof. Seay’s assumption that apparent conflicts among professional duties must be resolved through ‘balancing’ and argue that, while the physician’s duty to extend life is continuous with her duty to protect health, any duty to relieve pain is subordinate to these. Finally, I show that what is morally determinative here, as throughout the moral life, is the agent’s intention and that Prof. Seay’s implicitly preferred consequentialism threatens not only to distort moral thinking but would altogether undermine the medical (and any other) profession and its internal ethics.

Comment: This text will mostly be of use to advanced students (or courses) focusing on the ethics of physician assisted suicide or euthanasia. It presents a detailed rebuttal to Seay’s “Euthanasia and Physicians’ Moral Duties,” so it will be of most use to students who have read Seay’s text or are deeply familiar with defenses of euthanasia based in consequentialist moral reasoning.

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Kuhse, Helga, , . The Sanctity-of-Life Doctrine in Medicine: A Critique
1987, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Publisher’s Note: According to the “sanctity-of-life” view, all human lives are equally valuable and inviolable, and it would be wrong to base life-and-death medical decisions on the quality of the patient’s life. Examining the ideas and assumptions behind the sanctity-of-life view, Kuhse argues against the traditional view that allowing someone to die is morally different from killing, and shows that quality-of-life judgments are ubiquitous. Refuting the sanctity-of-life view, she provides a sketch of a quality-of-life ethics based on the belief that there is a profound difference between merely being alive and life being in the patient’s interest.

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Steinbock, Bonnie, , . The case for physician assisted suicide: not (yet) proven
2005, Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (4):235-241.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: The legalisation of physician assisted suicide in Oregon and physician assisted death in the Netherlands has revitalised the debate over whether and under what conditions individuals should be able to determine the time and manner of their deaths, and whether they should be able to enlist the help of physicians in doing so. Although the change in the law is both dramatic and recent, the basic arguments for and against have not really changed since the issue was debated by Glanville Williams and Yale Kamisar nearly 50 years ago. In this paper, the author argues in favour of Kamisar’s consequentialist framework. Any change in law and social policy should not be based solely on individual cases, heart wrenching though these may be. Instead, we need to assess the need for PAS, and weigh this against the risks of mistake and abuse

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Thomson, Judith Jarvis, , . Physician-Assisted Suicide: Two Moral Arguments
1999, Ethics 109 (3):497-518.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Introduction: What I will discuss are two of the moral arguments that have been put forward as reasons for objecting to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. They have been taken seriously by a great many people and have had a powerful impact on the state of American law in this area. I will argue that they are bad arguments. I should say at the outset, however, that even if these are bad arguments, there may be others that are better. Many people oppose the legalizing of physician-assisted suicide on the ground that (as they think) there is no way of constraining the practice so as to provide adequate protections for the poor and the weak. They may be right, and if they are, then all bets are off. Alternatively, they may be wrong. I will simply bypass this issue.

Comment: The two arguments focus on the distinction between killing and letting die, and the doctrine of double effect. The arguments offered are central to the discussion on the moral permissibility of euthanasia and assisted suicide, which makes this text very useful in teaching applied ethics. It can be also useful in more general teaching on the doctrine of double effect.

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