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Foot, Philippa, , . Euthanasia
1977, Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (2):85-112. Reprinted in her Virtues and vices. Oxford: Blackwell.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Comment: This text is of central interest in teaching about moral issues related to euthanasia. The text introduces the vital distinctions between active and passive, voluntary and nonvoluntary euthanasia, and argues in favour of moral permissibility of all but the active nonvoluntary type.

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Foot, Philippa, , . Virtues and Vices
1978, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by: Nomy Arpaly

Publisher’s Note: This collection of essays, written between 1957 and 1977, contains discussions of the moral philosophy of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and some modern philosophers. It presents virtues and vices rather than rights and duties as the central concepts in moral philosophy. Throughout, the author rejects contemporary anti? naturalistic moral philosophies such as emotivism and prescriptivism, but defends the view that moral judgements may be hypothetical rather than (as Kant thought) categorical imperatives. The author also applies her moral philosophy to the current debates on euthanasia and abortion, the latter discussed in relation to the doctrine of the double effect. She argues against the suggestion, on the part of A. J. Ayer and others, that free will actually requires determinism. In a final essay, she asks whether the concept of moral approval can be understood except against a particular background of social practices.

Comment: Foot stands out among contemporary ethical theorists because of her conviction that virtues and vices are more central ethical notions than rights, duties, justice, or consequences. Since the author discusses multiple relevant topics (abortion, euthanasia, free will/determination, and the ethics of Hume and Nietzsche) this book is a really complete reading for Ethics courses. The book can be used in both, undergraduate and postgraduate courses, but the last eight essays are more suitable for postgraduates.

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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, , . Critical Notice: Why Killing Is Not Always Worse – and Is Sometimes Better – Than Letting Die
1998, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 7 (4):371-374.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: The philosophical debate over the moral difference between killing and letting die has obvious relevance for the contemporary public debate over voluntary euthanasia. Winston Nesbitt claims to have shown that killing someone is, other things being equal, always worse than allowing someone to die. But this conclusion is illegitimate. While Nesbitt is correct when he suggests that killing is sometimes worse than letting die, this is not always the case. In this article, I argue that there are occasions when it is better to kill than to let die

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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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O’Neill, Onora, , . Questions of Life and Death
2008, The Lancet 372:1291-1292.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: In Easeful Death: Is There a Case for Assisted Dying? Mary and Elisabeth Macdonald set out with exemplary clarity reasons for prohibiting or permitting physicians to ‘help’ patients to die. Their arguments are cogent, illuminating, and in many ways convincing. Yet I find myself disagreeing with their conclusion that assisted dying should be made lawful, and will set out why.

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Steinbock, Bonnie, , . The Intentional Termination of Life
1979, In Steinbock, Bonnie and Alastair Norcross (eds.), Killing and Letting Die. Fordham University Press.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Content: Steinbock argues that cessation of treatment can be for reasons other than the ending of life, specifically respecting a patient’s right to refuse treatment and when treatment would not be a net benefit. She concludes that the AMA can consistently reject intentional killing and hold that it is sometimes permissible to withdraw treatment without relying on the controversial passive/active euthanasia distinction.

Comment: Very useful chapter for discussion in a module about ethical issues at the end of life.
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