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Philosopher assisted suicide and euthanasia

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 26 October 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1088
  1. Carl Elliott

    Legal euthanasia and assisted suicide are beginning to look inevitable, yet many doctors seem uncomfortable with the idea. The BMA has opposed legalising euthanasia and so have many states and national medical organisations in the United States. A recent bill making Australia's Northern Territories the world's first jurisdiction to legalise active euthanasia was bitterly opposed by the Australian Medical Association. Even doctors who want to make euthanasia legal often say that they would not want to participate.

    In this, as in other things, philosophers think differently. While there is certainly not unanimity among them—some moral philosophers express deep concerns about euthanasia—academic philosophers have been prominent among those arguing for ethical and legislative changes in current euthanasia policies. Philosophers have rightly pointed out that euthanasia brings about a quicker death for patients who are suffering, and on humanitarian grounds this is preferable to a more prolonged death. Philosophers have also argued, again persuasively, that it is difficult to make rational moral distinctions between withdrawal of life sustaining treatment, which doctors …

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