25 Med. & L. 189 (2006)
Euthanasia - The Illusion of Autonomy

handle is hein.journals/mlv25 and id is 195 raw text is: 


Med Law (2006) 25:189-199                                  Medicine
                                                             and Law
                                                           CYOZMOT 2006

Euthanasia

EUTHANASIA - THE ILLUSION OF AUTONOMY
O.J. Hartling *



      Abstract: The paper deals with some of the more common arguments
      used for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. It looks at these
      arguments from an ethical and philosophical point of view.
      First, the argument that to offer a person the possibility of euthanasia is
      to respect that person's autonomy is questionable. Can a person's
      decision on euthanasia be really autonomous? If euthanasia were legal
      everybody would be conscious of this option: the patient, the doctor,
      the family and the nursing staff. Thus, there could be indirect pressure
      on the patient to make a decision. The choice is meant to be free but the
      patient is not free not to make the choice.
      Secondly, a choice that seeks to alleviate suffering and thus improve
      life by annihilating it is irrational.
      Thirdly, autonomy as to one's own death is hardly exercised freely. Even
      an otherwise competent person may not be competent in deciding on
      his own death on account of despair, hopelessness, fear or maybe a
      feeling ofbeing weak, superfluous and unwanted. This is a very uncertain
      base for decision-making, especially in the irrevocable decision of
      euthanasia.
      Finally, a competent person usually makes any choice in a responsible
      way and after due consideration; a 'good' decision should consider and
      respect the wishes and feelings of others. This will be no less the case in
      making a decision on the so-called free choice of euthanasia. Thus
      'normal' behaviour in decision making will only add to the tendency of
      the already depressed person to feel a burden on his family, the staff
      and even on society.

      Keywords: Euthanasia legislation; autonomy; autocracy; dying with
      dignity.

 * M.D., D.M. Sc. The Danish Council of Ethics, Copenhagen, Denmark


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