Euthanasia: what is the genuine problem?
Alberto Giubilini (Monash University)

September 12, 2012, 3:15pm - 4:45pm
University of Melbourne

Prest Theatrette (Rm 115), in Arts West (Building 148).
University of Melbourne

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Abstract: The current impasse in the old debate about the morality of euthanasia is mainly due to the fact that, although almost everything has been said about either sides of the controversy, the actual source of conflict has not been properly identified. I will first analyse the two different issues involved in the debate, and which are sometimes confusingly mixed up, namely: a) what is euthanasia?, and b) why is euthanasia morally problematic?

The difficulty in answering a) is that there is no general agreement among those engaged in debates as to the definition of "euthanasia". The main difficulty with b) is that some practices such as terminal sedation or withdrawal of disproportionate treatments are sometimes considered morally permissible by those who do not consider euthanasia morally permissible, but the reason for this moral distinction is not clear.

Considering documents by physicians, philosophers and the Roman Catholic Church, I will show that a) 'euthanasia' is defined by the intention to bring about a patient's death, rather than by its being an active killing, and b) the distinction between what is intentional and what is not does not represent the morally problematic reason against euthanasia. Therefore, although the debate on euthanasia so far has mainly focussed on the distinctions "active/passive" and "intentional/unintentional", I argue that neither constitutes the genuine source of the controversies. I will clarify what such source of controversies exactly is. The clarification will allow me to outline the minimal requirement for a reasonable moral argument against euthanasia.

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