Ending Life: Ethics and the Way We Die
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Margaret Pabst Battin has established a reputation as one of the top philosophers working in bioethics today. This work is a sequel to Battin's 1994 volume The Least Worst Death. The last ten years have seen fast-moving developments in end-of-life issues, from the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon and the Netherlands, to a furor over proposed restrictions of scheduled drugs used for causing death, and the development of "NuTech" methods of assistance in dying. Battin's new collection covers a remarkably wide range of end-of-life topics, including suicide prevention, AIDS, suicide bombing, serpent-handling and other religious practices that pose a risk of death, genetic prognostication, suicide in old age, global justice and the "duty to die." It also examines suicide, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia in both American and international contexts.
As with the earlier volume, these new essays are theoretically adroit but draw richly from historical sources, fictional techniques, and ample factual material.
does not license just any old act—not crazed acts and not acts that harm others. But the principle does insist that free, considered, individual choice, where one is the architect of one’s own life and the chooser of one’s own deepest values, must be respected—including, at least as proponents interpret the principle, choices of physician-assisted suicide. The early theorists were particularly concerned with what was called the issue of ‘rational suicide’. The question was whether a person could
used to oppose physician-assisted suicide are the slippery-slope argument, which points to the likelihood of abuse, and the principled argument, which points to the intrinsic wrongness of killing. The slippery-slope argument, backbone of the literature opposed to physicianassisted suicide, claims that legal and societal recognition of physician-assisted suicide will lead by gradual degrees to outright abuse: from a few sympathetic cases of suffering, we will move to the coercion of dying patients
suffer” may covertly promise something else as well—a period of dying that is not only pain-free but lived in a conscious, alert, still-autonomous way. This promise is certainly not explicit; but to at least some patients, “not suffering” does not suggest the absence of conscious experience, as in terminal sedation, but rather the enjoyment of conscious experience in which suffering does not occur. To some, at least, “I won’t let you suffer” will seem to mean “I’ll see that you can remain alert,
and half jointly to your two surviving children and the daughter of the child who is deceased. When you die your half of the insurance will form part of your estate, and be taxable at the usual inheritance rates. If, on the other hand, your husband predeceases you, the . . .” “We want it to be simultaneous,” she will say. The young man will stiffen almost imperceptibly, sit forward on his chair, crush the cigarette out in the ashtray. “I see,” he will answer, “in that case, the various insurance
it important. He begins to recite the central argument: “In the species homo sapiens as in other species, various natural forces, including disease, predators, and disability, have always served to eliminate the aging members of the population . . .” Robeck joins him in unison: “. . . thus freeing resources for the consumption of the younger, reproducing members of the group.” Liller is startled to have its author make fun of this serious thesis. But he continues: “Disease, predators, and