Euthanasia and the common good

by Charlotte Paul, Corpus, 2 July 2018

These days, the encouragement for doctors to be omnipotent and instrumental is coming from the public, as shown by the majority of those who support legalising euthanasia. But the supporters have moral reasons: they want the right to choose the manner of their death, and express compassion for those suffering unbearably. They don’t see their support as encouraging doctors to be omnipotent, or society to become more instrumental in its attitude to care. They have seen the suffering of friends and family and don’t want that for themselves or those close to them. They know death is not the worst thing. Nor do they see these wider concerns as relevant; they believe legislative safeguards will be put in place to prevent them.

Yet there are difficulties. First, a law change that responds to a request for compassion for some individuals might have wider consequences that are worse for everyone. Second, a right to choose to die presumes an obligation on doctors to end a life; an obligation at odds with the traditional morality of medicine. My concerns are that legalisation will make the meanings in suffering and death unavailable and tempt doctors into omnipotence again.

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