Euthanasia, Ethics, and Public Policy: An Argument against Legalisation

By John Keown | Go to book overview
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PART I
The ethical debate: human life, autonomy, legal
hypocrisy, and the slippery slope
Chapter 1 noted that confusion, rather than consensus, surrounds even the definition of 'euthanasia'. The moral debate about whether VAE should be legalised betrays no more consensus and no less confusion. This is partly because of disagreement about terminology. But it is largely due to profound morald is agreement: about the value of human life; about the proper purpose and limits of individual autonomy; and about whether current law and medical practice consistently and effectively prohibit intentional medical killing.Part II outlines three major arguments for the legalisation of VAE and offers replies to those arguments. The three arguments are:
that it is right for a doctor intentionally to terminate the life of a patient at the patient's request when death is thought to be a benefit;
that such a course, as well as recognising that life is sometimes a burden rather than a benefit, also respects the patient's autonomy, the patient's right to make his or her own decisions;
that the current law is ineffective and inconsistent: not only does it fail to stop the clandestine practice of VAE by some doctors but it hypocritically permits some forms of medical practice, such as administering life-shortening doses of palliative drugs, which are actually a form of euthanasia.

Chapters 4–6 will consider each argument, and corresponding counterarguments, in turn. Chapter 7 will then consider a major argument against decriminalising VAE the so-called slippery slope argument.

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