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Intention and IdentityCollected Essays Volume II$
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John Finnis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199580064

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580064.001.0001

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Intentionally Killing the ‘Permanently Unconscious’

Intentionally Killing the ‘Permanently Unconscious’

(p.313) 19 Intentionally Killing the ‘Permanently Unconscious’
Intention and Identity

John Finnis

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents a critique of the decision of the House of Lords in Bland, upholding the withdrawing of food and water from Bland, with intent to terminate his life, on the ground that because he was in PVS (a permanent vegetative state) it was no longer worth living. The significance of the Lords' distinction between action and omission is questioned. The dualism involved in various judicial dicta about his life is critiqued. The very limited decriminalization of suicide in 1961 was not a recognition of ‘the principle of self-determination’. The intent in withdrawing sustenance to invalids whose death is not imminent is distinguished from the intent in desisting from medical treatments.

Keywords:   action and omission, intent, Bland, PVS, withdrawal of treatment, withdrawal of nutrition and hydration, decriminalization of suicide, self-determination, life worth living, dualism

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