Bioethics 33 (1):195-200 (2019)

In the end‐of‐life context, alleviation of the suffering of a distressed patient is usually seen as a, if not the, central goal for the medical personnel treating her. Yet it has also been argued that suffering should be seen as a part of good dying. More precisely, it has been maintained that alleviating a dying patient’s suffering can make her unable to take care of practical end‐of‐life matters, deprive her of an opportunity to ask questions about and find meaning in and for her existence, and detach her from reality. In this article, I argue that the aims referred to either do not support suffering or are better served by alleviating it. When the aims would be equally well served by enduring suffering and relieving it, the latter appears to be the preferable option, given that the distress a patient experiences has no positive intrinsic value. Indeed, as the suffering can be very distressing, it may not be worth bearing even if that was the best way to achieve the aims: the distress can sometimes be bad enough to outbalance the worth of achieving the goals. Having considered an objection to the effect that a patient can have a self‐regarding moral duty to endure the distress she faces at the end of life, I conclude that the burden of proof is on the side of those who maintain that the suffering experienced at the end of life ought to be endured as a part of dying well.
Keywords dying  end‐of‐life  meaning  patient  reality  suffering
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DOI 10.1111/bioe.12513
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