Levinas and the Euthanasia Debate

Journal of Religious Ethics 28 (1):119 - 135 (2000)
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The philosophers' tendency to characterize euthanasia in terms of either the right or the responsibility to die is, in some ways, problematic. Stepping outside of the analytic framework, the author draws out the implications of the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas for the euthanasia debate, tracing the way Levinas's position differs not only from the philosophical consensus but also from the theological one. The article shows that, according to Levinas, there is no ethical case for suicide or assisted suicide. Death cannot be assumed or chosen-not only because suicide is a logically and metaphysically contradictory concept but also because in the choice of death ethical responsibility turns into irresponsibility. However, since Levinas holds that one must be responsible to the point of expiation, he can be said to approve certain actions that may have the consequence of hastening death



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