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Opponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) maintain that physician withdrawal-of-life-sustaining-treatment cannot be morally equated to voluntary active euthanasia. PAS opponents generally distinguish these two kinds of act by positing a possible moral distinction between killing and allowing-to-die, ceteris paribus. While that distinction continues to be widely accepted in the public discourse, it has been more controversial among philosophers. Some ethicist PAS advocates are so certain that the distinction is invalid that they describe PAS opponents who hold to the distinction as in the grip of 'moral fictions'. The author contends that such a diagnosis is too hasty. The possibility of a moral distinction between active euthanasia and allowing-to-die has not been closed off by the argumentative strategies employed by these PAS advocates, including the contrasting cases strategy and the assimilation of doing and allowing to a common sense notion of causation. The philosophical debate over the doing/allowing distinction remains inconclusive, but physicians and others who rely upon that distinction in thinking about the ethics of end-of-life care need not give up on it in response to these arguments.
University of Alabama-at-Birmingham School of Medicine and the Birimingham VA Medical Center.
This article was published in the following journal.
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The cognitive and affective processes which constitute an internalized moral governor over an individual's moral conduct.
The state or condition of being a human individual accorded moral and/or legal rights. Criteria to be used to determine this status are subject to debate, and range from the requirement of simply being a human organism to such requirements as that the individual be self-aware and capable of rational thought and moral agency.
Duties that are based in ETHICS, rather than in law.
The moral and ethical obligations or responsibilities of institutions.
The process by which individuals internalize standards of right and wrong conduct.
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