By Max J. Charlesworth
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Additional resources for Bioethics in a Liberal Society
It is not so much that such people wish to 'die with dignity' ('dying with dignity' is a misleading slogan since many kinds of dying are 'undignified') but rather that they wish to 'die with autonomy' since what they want is to die as autonomous human beings who are, to some degree at least, in control of their own lives. This, in fact, provides us with a criterion for distinguishing between the cases where suicide is, as Kant argues, motivated by lack of moral respect for oneself as a person, and cases where suicide is motivated precisely by respect for oneself as an autonomous moral agent.
In particular I am interested to analyse how a liberal society and its legislative and legal processes can cope with these developments. -35- A moral right to die? A US President's Commission report on life-sustaining treatment dilates at some length on what it calls 'the disservice done by empty rhetoric' apropos of death and dying. , whose meanings have become hopelessly blurred'. In recent years many have commented on the claim that patients have a 'right to die with dignity'. Much can and should be done to ensure that patients are treated with respect and concern throughout life.
9 But it is difficult to ascertain whether the virtual decriminalisation of assisted suicide in the Netherlands has brought about a significant increase in the number of doctors and nurses inducing death in their patients without the latter's consent, since there is no base data about the situation that prevailed in the Netherlands before the present legislation. Again, the remedy for any abuses would appear to be more stringent controls over the determination of the actual or implied consent of patients, rather than the total prohibition of assisted suicide at the request of patients.