Methods in Medical Ethics

By Jeremy Sugarman; Daniel P. Sulmasy | Go to book overview

14
Research in Medical Ethics:
Physician-Assisted Suicide and
Euthanasia

Daniel P. Sulmasy

The issue of physician-assisted dying, including both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, provides an excellent example with which to demonstrate how many methods of medical ethics have contributed to the examination of a single (but particularly vexing) set of questions. This chapter is not a comprehensive review of the literature, but rather a survey of some of the highlights of this vast array of scholarship. My aim is to mention enough of the work to give the reader a feel for the breadth of the investigation and the interactions between a variety of contributing disciplines and their methods, and to point out some of the failures of medical ethicists to take up important aspects of this question or to pursue interdisciplinary dialogue to its greatest potential. While the morality of suicide and euthanasia has been argued for many centuries, I will largely confine my discussion to the literature of the 1980s and 1990s, discussing some of the most recent work in the field.

In this chapter, I use the term physician-assisted suicide (PAS) to refer to situations in which physicians enable patients to take their own lives, typically by prescribing medicines that are intended to bring about death. Euthanasia refers to situations in which a physician (or another person) acts to create a new, lethal pathophysiological state in a patient with the specific intention that the patient should die by way of that action.


RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE MANY METHODS

Philosophical Methods

Although it has not always been so obvious that philosophers should be doing medical ethics, twenty-five years ago, when questions about the morality of PAS and euthanasia were being raised stridently in the United States, philosophers were already deeply enmeshed in the field. They readily took up these controversial questions.

Perhaps the first major strong, proeuthanasia paper in the modern medical ethics literature was written by James Rachels and published in the New England Journal of Medicine

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Methods in Medical Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Contributors xiii
  • Part I - Overview 1
  • 1: The Many Methods of Medical Ethics (Or, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird) 3
  • 2: A Decade of Empirical Research in Medical Ethics 19
  • Part II - Methods 29
  • 3: Philosophy 31
  • 4: Religion and Theology 47
  • 5: Professional Codes 70
  • 6: Legal Methods 88
  • 7: Casuistry 104
  • 8: History 126
  • 9: Qualitative Methods 146
  • 10: Ethnographic Methods 169
  • 11: Quantitative Surveys 1 192
  • 12: Experimental Methods 207
  • 13: Economics and Decision Science 227
  • Part III - Relationships and Applications 245
  • 14: Research in Medical Ethics: Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia 247
  • 15: Research in Medical Ethics: Genetic Diagnosis 1 267
  • 16: Reading the Medical Ethics Literature: a Discourse on Method 286
  • Index 298
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