Garcia, Jorge L. A., and . Health versus Harm: Euthanasia and Physicians’ Duties

2007, Journal of Medicine and Philsophy, 31 (1): 7-24.

Abstract: This essay rebuts Gary Seay’s efforts to show that committing euthanasia need not conflict with a physician’s professional duties. First, I try to show how his misunderstanding of the correlativity of rights and duties and his discussion of the foundation of moral rights undermine his case. Second, I show aspects of physicians’ professional duties that clash with euthanasia, and that attempts to avoid this clash lead to absurdities. For professional duties are best understood as deriving from professional virtues and the commitments and purposes with which the professional as such ought to act, and there is no plausible way in which her death can be seen as advancing the patient’s medical welfare. Third, I argue against Prof. Seay’s assumption that apparent conflicts among professional duties must be resolved through ‘balancing’ and argue that, while the physician’s duty to extend life is continuous with her duty to protect health, any duty to relieve pain is subordinate to these. Finally, I show that what is morally determinative here, as throughout the moral life, is the agent’s intention and that Prof. Seay’s implicitly preferred consequentialism threatens not only to distort moral thinking but would altogether undermine the medical (and any other) profession and its internal ethics.

Comment: This text will mostly be of use to advanced students (or courses) focusing on the ethics of physician assisted suicide or euthanasia. It presents a detailed rebuttal to Seay's "Euthanasia and Physicians' Moral Duties," so it will be of most use to students who have read Seay's text or are deeply familiar with defenses of euthanasia based in consequentialist moral reasoning.

Thomson, Judith Jarvis, and . Physician-Assisted Suicide: Two Moral Arguments

1999, Ethics 109 (3):497-518.

Comment: The two arguments focus on the distinction between killing and letting die, and the doctrine of double effect. The arguments offered are central to the discussion on the moral permissibility of euthanasia and assisted suicide, which makes this text very useful in teaching applied ethics. It can be also useful in more general teaching on the doctrine of double effect.