Death's Dominion: Ethics at the End of Life

Death's Dominion: Ethics at the End of Life

Death's Dominion: Ethics at the End of Life

Death's Dominion: Ethics at the End of Life


"I enjoyed reading this book very much. It is very readable and well argued using real life cases and thought experiments as well. The book provides the reader with a short history of and an overview of the most important issues in modern palliative care. Various theoretical discussions are clearly set out, such as: the relationship between the hospice movement and modern palliative care, between palliative care and health care in general, between palliative sedation and euthanasia, and the question whether euthanasia can be part of palliative care. The author starts with exploring the existing debates and then develops his own arguments in a balanced and well-structured way."
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

"The text of this book is accessible, the philosophical and ethical arguments are clearly articulated, and relevant ethical principles are integrated into the critique of the issues, making this a very useful book for nurses working in palliative as well as in general care."
Nursing Ethics

"It is crucially important for any student or researcher who is seriously consideringethical and policy matters at the end of life to embrace and tackle intellectually the issues that Woods raises in this book. I would happily recommend it."
Journal of Medical Ethics

  • What constitutes a good death?
  • Is it possible to arrange a good death?
  • Is killing compatible with caring?
This book looks at death and the issues and ethical dilemmas faced at the end of life. It addresses the central issues in the field such as:
  • Withholding and withdrawing treatment
  • Euthanasia and assisted suicide
  • Terminal sedation
  • The role of autonomy
  • Palliative care
Drawing on a philosophical framework, the author explores end-of-life issues in order to reflect on the nature of the good death and how this may be achieved. The book considers whether it is permissible or desirable to influence the quality of dying: offering palliative sedation as a possible alternative to terminal sedation, the argument is extended to examine why some forms of assisted dying can be shown to be compatible with the ideas of palliative care.

Consideration is also given to future developments such as life extension techniques and the ethical questions that that these techniques might raise. As such, the book follows in the ongoing philosophical tradition to critique and analyse current thought on the topic of death, encouraging self-reflection in the reader and offering suggestions for practice in end-of-life care.

Death's Dominion is key reading for students and professionals involved in care of the dying, as well as those with an interest in the philosophical issues surrounding end-of-life care.


Within the Facing Death series we have done our best to give a prominent place to the works of moral philosophers and those engaged with bioethics. Among these we can list an edited collection entitled The Ethics of Palliative Care as well as the work of Lars Sandman on A Good Death in addition some related titles, such as Reflections on Palliative Care as well as the ethnographic studies we have published by Jane Seymour and Anne Mei . They all engage at some point with ethical and moral issues surrounding modern end of life care in different settings.

I am therefore delighted to welcome to the series this new book by Simon Woods. He and I first met when we collaborated on a the European Pallium project that did so much to raise awareness about how the history and philosophy of palliative care are woven together with a range of values and beliefs that suffuse clinical practice in a variety of countries and cultures. I was impressed in that project by Simon's analytic reasoning and his ability to test to destruction' some cherished values within the world of palliative care. Whilst never hostile or mischievous, Death's Dominion does pose a number of questions that are extremely relevant to palliative care policy and practice and will be read with interest by anyone who has been following recent debates about palliative and end of life care and the ways in which they are evolving in the modern world. Simon Woods highlights the struggles that exist between a version of palliative care that remains rooted in Christian axiology and that which has embraced secular liberal ethics in the west. Germane to this is the rise of the concept of autonomy to the status of bioethical principle that is shaping all healthcare. There is justifiable scepticism at this approach and we are treated here to a fascinating counter-argument that is rooted in communitarian ethics. Nor does the book eschew specific clinical issues and there are useful chapters on the . . .

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