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Death, Dying, and Organ TransplantationReconstructing Medical Ethics at the End of Life$
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Franklin G. Miller and Robert D. Truog

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199739172

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199739172.001.0001

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Active Euthanasia

Active Euthanasia

Chapter:
2 Active Euthanasia
Source:
Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation
Author(s):

Franklin G. Miller

Robert D. Truog

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199739172.003.0009

Conventional medical ethics relating to end-of-life decisions draws two bright lines between ethically permitted and forbidden practices. Clinicians may withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment but must never administer lethal treatment. Additionally, palliative care that relieves suffering, even at the risk of hastening death, is permitted, but active euthanasia is forbidden. Drawing on the argument in Chapter 1, we reject both of these bright lines. It does not follow that these end-of-life practices are morally equivalent. Patients have a right to decide to withdraw life support and a right to receive palliative care; they have no right to receive lethal treatment. We argue that contrary to the traditional view, active euthanasia as a treatment of last resort is compatible with the role morality and the professional integrity of physicians. However, it raises complex issues of policy that make it an open question as to whether this practice should be legally permitted.

Keywords:   active euthanasia, goals of medicine, role morality and professional integrity, palliative care, slippery slope

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