Being a burden to others and wishes to die: The importance of the sociopolitical context

Bioethics 34 (2):195-199 (2019)
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Abstract

All articles in May 2019’s special issue of Bioethics offer profound insights into the issue of “being a burden to others” in relation to wishes to die, which are highly relevant for ethical debates about end‐of‐life care and physician‐assisted dying. In this reply, we wish to stress the importance of acknowledging and analyzing the sociopolitical context of the phenomenon “being a burden” in relation to wishes to die and we will show how this analysis could benefit from a care ethical approach. As discussions in care ethics have made clear, caring practices are both social and political practices. An empirical and ethical analysis of “being a burden” therefore needs to take institutional and societal norms and structures into account, in addition to first‐person experiences and concepts such as caring needs, relational autonomy, and interdependency. Besides the relevance of the sociopolitical context for the phenomenon “being a burden” as such, the sociopolitical context also seems relevant for the investigation of the phenomenon, which we will illustrate by reflecting on “being a burden” in relation to the practice of physician‐assisted dying in the Netherlands.

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