Setting a principled boundary'? Euthanasia as a response to 'life fatigue

Bioethics 21 (3):117–126 (2007)
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ABSTRACT The Dutch case of Brongersma presents novel challenges to the definition and evaluation of voluntary euthanasia since it involved a doctor assisting the suicide of an individual who was (merely?) ‘tired of life’. Legal officials had called on the courts to ‘set a principled boundary’, excluding such cases from the scope of permissible voluntary euthanasia, but they arguably failed. This failure is explicable, however, since the case seems justifiable by reference to the two major principles in favour of that practice, respect for autonomy and beneficence. Ultimately, it will be argued that those proponents of voluntary euthanasia who are wary of its use in such circumstances may need to draw upon ‘practical’ objections, in order to erect an otherwise arbitrary perimeter. Furthermore, it will be suggested that the issues raised by the case are not peculiarly Dutch in nature and that, therefore, there are lessons here for other jurisdictions too.



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