Euthanasia and Eudaimonia

Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (9):530-533 (2009)

Authors
David M. Shaw
University of Basel
Abstract
This paper re-evaluates euthanasia and assisted suicide from the perspective of eudaimonia, the ancient Greek conception of happiness across one’s whole life. It is argued that one cannot be said to have fully flourished or had a truly happy life if one’s death is preceded by a period of unbearable pain or suffering that one cannot avoid without assistance in ending one’s life. While death is to be accepted as part of life, it should not be left to nature to dictate the way we die, and it is fundamentally unjust to grant people liberal latitude in how they live their lives while granting them little control over the conclusion of their life narratives. Three objections to this position are considered and rejected; the paper also offers an explanation of why we think killing can be a benefit. Ultimately, euthanasia may be necessary in some cases in order to achieve eudaimonia.
Keywords Euthanasia  Flourishing  Virtue ethics  Eudaimonia
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DOI 10.1136/jme.2008.028852
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