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Against Absolute Goodness$
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Richard Kraut

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199844463

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199844463.001.0001

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Euthanasia

Euthanasia

Chapter:
Chapter 26 Euthanasia
Source:
Against Absolute Goodness
Author(s):

Richard Kraut

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199844463.003.0026

The intrinsic value of human life was cited in a 1990 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court (Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health) as one legitimate basis on which a state can forbid medical personnel from withdrawing life-sustaining support from a patient who has fallen into a persistent vegetative state. According to Justices Rehnquist and Scalia, even when it is contrary to the interests of those who are in this condition to continue to live, a state can legitimately prevent others from letting them die or killing them, because human lives have intrinsic value. As Ronald Dworkin reports their opinions, they held that “it is intrinsically a bad thing when anyone dies deliberately and prematurely.” The lives of human beings “have intrinsic value, even if it is not in their own interests to continue living.” The concept of intrinsic value being employed here is what has been referred to as absolute goodness. To assess the cogency of the reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the permissibility of euthanasia, we must decide whether absolute goodness is a reason-giving property.

Keywords:   human life, intrinsic value, absolute goodness, Ronald Dworkin, reason-giving property

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