David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 26 (1):75 – 91 (2001)
An important part of the debate over physician-assisted suicide concerns moral duties that are specific to physicians. It is sometimes argued that physicians, by virtue of special commitments rooted in the nature of their profession, may never intentionally kill a patient, and that therefore, whether or not assisted suicide may be justifiable, it can never be right for a physician to take part in such an act. I examine four types of argument that have been offered in support of this conclusion, and find that none succeeds. Each attempts to show why the duty to conserve life must be unconditional for physicians, yet a consideration of the ways in which contemporary medicine has evolved shows that such a duty is now no more fundamental to the profession than a duty to relieve suffering, which may in some cases override it.
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