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The entry sets out five individually necessary conditions for anyone to be a candidate for legalised voluntary euthanasia (or, in some usages, physician-assisted suicide), outlines the moral case advanced by those in favour

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Introduction

Voluntary Euthanasia The entry sets out five individually necessary conditions for anyone to be a candidate for legalised voluntary euthanasia (or, in some usages, physician-assisted suicide), outlines the moral case advanced by those in favour of legalising voluntary euthanasia, and discusses six of the more important objections made by those opposed to the legality of voluntary euthanasia. * 1. Introduction * 2. Five Individually Necessary Conditions for Candidacy for Voluntary Euthanasia * 3. A Moral Case for Voluntary Euthanasia * 4. Six Objections to the Moral Permissibility of Voluntary Euthanasia * Bibliography * Other Internet Resources * Related Entries 1. Introduction When a person commits an act of euthanasia he brings about the death of another person because he believes the latter's present existence is so bad that she would be better off dead, or believes that unless he intervenes and ends her life, it will become so bad that she would be better off dead. The motive of the person who commits an act of euthanasia is to benefit the one whose death is brought about. (Though what was just said also holds for many instances of physician-assisted suicide, some wish to restrict the use of the latter term to forms of assistance which stop short of the physician 'bringing about the death' of the patient, such as those involving mechanical means which have to be activated by the patient.) Our concern will be with voluntary euthanasia -- that is, with those instances of euthanasia in which a clearly competent person makes a voluntary and enduring request to be helped to die. There shall be occasion to mention non-voluntary euthanasia -- instances of euthanasia where a person is either not competent to, or unable to, express a wish about euthanasia, and there is no one authorised to make a substituted judgment (wherein a proxy chooses as the no longer competent patient would have chosen had she remained competent) ...read more.

Middle

based on the experience of the deaths of friends or family) to know her own mind and act accordingly? Objection 3 According to one interpretation of the traditional 'doctrine of double effect' it is permissible to act in ways which it is foreseen will have bad consequences provided only that (a) this occurs as a side effect (or indirectly) to the achievement of the act which is directly aimed at or intended; (b) the act directly aimed at is itself morally good or, at least, morally neutral; (c) the good effect is not achieved by way of the bad, that is, the bad must not be a means to the good; and (d) the bad consequences must not be so serious as to outweigh the good effect. In line with the doctrine of double effect it is, for example, held to be permissible to alleviate pain by administering drugs like morphine which it is foreseen will shorten life, whereas to give an overdose or injection with the direct intention of terminating a patient's life (whether at her request or not) is considered morally indefensible. This is not the appropriate forum to give full consideration to this doctrine. However, there is one vital criticism to be made of the doctrine concerning its relevance to the issue of voluntary euthanasia. With that point made we will be able to turn to the more general question of the moral permissibility of intentional killing. The criticism of the relevance of the doctrine of double effect to any critique of voluntary euthanasia, at least on what seems to me to be a defensible reading of that doctrine, is simply this: the doctrine can only be relevant where a person's death is an evil or, to put it another way, a harm. Sometimes 'harm' is understood simply as damage to a person's interest whether consented to or not. At other times it is more strictly understood as wrongfully inflicted damage. ...read more.

Conclusion

No novel legal values or principles need to be invoked. Indeed, the fact that suicide and attempted suicide are no longer criminal offences in many jurisdictions indicates that the central importance of individual self-determination in a closely analogous setting has been accepted. The fact that assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia have not yet been widely decriminalised is probably best explained along the lines that have frequently been offered for excluding consent of the victim as a justification for an act of killing, namely the difficulties thought to exist in establishing the genuineness of the consent. The establishment of suitable procedures for giving consent to assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia would seem to be no harder than establishing procedures for competently refusing burdensome or otherwise unwanted medical treatment. The latter has already been accomplished in many jurisdictions, so the former should be capable of establishment as well. Suppose that the moral case for legalising voluntary euthanasia does come to be judged as stronger than the case against (as the drift of this article would imply), and voluntary euthanasia is made legally permissible. Should doctors take part in the practice? Should only doctors perform voluntary euthanasia? The proper administration of medical care is not at odds with an understanding of medical care that both promotes patients' welfare interests and respects their self-determination. It is these twin values which should guide medical care, not a commitment to preserving life at all costs, or preserving life without regard to whether patients want their lives prolonged when they judge that life is no longer of benefit or value to themselves. Many doctors in The Netherlands and, to judge from available survey evidence, in other Western countries as well, see the practice of (voluntary) euthanasia as not only compatible with their professional commitments but also with their conception of the best medical care for the dying. That being so, they should not be prohibited by law from lending their professional assistance to those competent, terminally ill persons for whom no cure is possible and who wish for an easy death. ...read more.

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