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The Patient's Wish to DieResearch, Ethics, and Palliative Care$
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Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, Heike Gudat, and Kathrin Ohnsorge

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198713982

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198713982.001.0001

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Caring and killing in the clinic: the argument of self-determination

Caring and killing in the clinic: the argument of self-determination

(p.125) Chapter 12 Caring and killing in the clinic: the argument of self-determination
The Patient's Wish to Die

Lars Johan Materstvedt

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers assisted dying—euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, assisted suicide—through the lens of the right to autonomy or self-determination. A key thinker in this connection is Immanuel Kant. It is shown how, within Kant’s philosophy, assisted dying emerges as morally objectionable. From a legal point of view, however, it is not clear that assisted dying should be prohibited. The concept of self-ownership in John Locke and Robert Nozick is also discussed and connected with the issue of assisted dying. The idea that people are ‘the best judges of their own interests’, central to the assisted dying debate, is shown to be problematic in principle and practice. In the context of palliative end-of-life care it is even more problematic, due to all the factors that may impact on the decision-making capacities of patients. The chapter ends with a call for plain language with which to describe this extraordinarily complex issue.

Keywords:   assisted dying, assisted suicide, autonomy, end-of-life care, euthanasia, Immanuel Kant, palliative care, physician-assisted suicide, self-determination, self-ownership

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