The ethics of euthanasia: Advocates' perspectives

Bioethics 16 (2):154–172 (2002)
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Abstract

The Netherlands is currently the only country in the world in which euthanasia is legally permissible. More specifically, Dutch law (briefly explained) allows that a doctor terminates the life of a patient of hers on his voluntary, well‐considered and sustained request, if he is suffering unbearably and hopelessly. The aim of this paper is to reconstruct the Dutch debate on the moral permissibility of euthanasia so as to clarify and strengthen the various views that can be advanced in support of euthanasia. On the one view, The Pure Autonomy View (TPAV), the justification of euthanasia rests solely on the principle of respect for autonomy. That is, the reason for performing and permitting euthanasia is the patient’s voluntary, well‐considered and sustained, in one word: autonomous, request for euthanasia. On the alternative view, The Joint View (TJV), the principle of respect for autonomy and the principle of beneficence morally justify euthanasia together. That is, euthanasia is ethical if and partly because, since the patient is suffering unbearably and hopelessly, euthanasia is in his interest. According to this paper, there is no easy argument for one of these views rather than the other. Instead, as yet both TPAV and TJV seem inherently problematic. TPAV is unable to give a doctor a reason for performing euthanasia that appeals to her in her capacity as a doctor, such as relief of suffering. And TJV begs the question – for example, if a state were to legalize euthanasia on grounds of TJV, it would force the view upon its citizens that it may be in a person’s interest to die.

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