Suicide has been condemned in our culture in one way or another since Augustine offered theological arguments against it in the sixth century. More recently, theological condemnation has given way to the view that suicidal behavior must always be symptomatic of emotional disturbance and mental illness. However, suicide has not always been viewed so negatively. In other times and cultures, it has been held that circumstances might befall a person in which suicide would be a perfectly rational course of action, (...) in the same sense that any other course of action could be rational: that it could be sensible, i.e., defensible by good reasons, or that it could be in keeping with the agent's fundamental interests. Indiscriminate use of modern life-sustaining technologies has renewed interest in the possibility of rational suicide. Today proponents of rational suicide tend to equate the rationality of suicide with the competence of the decision to commit suicide. (shrink)
Although physician‐assisted death can be a great benefit both to those who are terminally ill and those who are not, the risks for patients in these two categories are quite different. For now it is reasonable to make the benefit available only for those near death, and to await better evidence about the risks before making it more broadly available.
Suicide is devastating. It is an assault on our ideas of what living is about. In Contemplating Suicide Gavin Fairbairn takes fresh look at suicidal self harm. His view is distinctive in not emphasising external facts: the presence or absence of a corpse, along with evidence that the person who has become a corpse, intended to do so. It emphasises the intentions that the person had in acting, rather than the consequences that follow from those actions. Much of the book (...) is devoted to an attempt to construct a natural history of suicidal self harm and to examine some of the ethical issues that it raises. Fairbairn sets his philosophical reflections against a background of practical experience in the caring professions and uses a storytelling approach in offering a critique of the current language of self harm along with some new ways of thinking. Among other things he offers cogent reasons for abandoning the mindless use of terms such as attempted suicide and parasuicide , and introduces a number of new terms including cosmic roulette , which he uses to describe a family of human acts in which people gamble with their lives. By elaborating a richer model of suicidal self harm than most philosophers and most practitioners of caring professions currently inhabit, Fairbairn has contributed to the development of understanding in this area. Among other things a richer model and vocabulary may reduce the likelihood that those who come into contact with suicidal self harm, will believe that familiarity with the physical facts of the matter - the actions of the suicider and the presence or absence of a corpse - is always sufficient to justify a definite conclusion about the nature of the self harming act. (shrink)
One of the most potent arguments against physician‐assisted death hinges on the worry that people with disabilities will be subtly coerced to accept death prematurely. The argument is flawed. There is nothing new in PAD: the risk of coercion is already present in current policies about end of life care. And to hold that any such risk is too much is tacitly to endorse vitalism and to deny that people with disabilities are capable of choosing authentically.
Death in the Clinic fills a gap in contemporary medical education by explicitly addressing the concrete clinical realities about death with which practitioners, patients, and their families continue to wrestle. Visit our website for sample chapters!
: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that HIV testing be routinely offered to certain patients in hospitals with a high prevalence of HIV infection and on all pregnant women. The CDC does not, however, offer implementation level guidelines for obtaining informed consent. We provide a moral justification for requiring informed consent for HIV testing and propose guidelines for securing such consent. In particular we argue that genuine informed consent can be secured without elaborate counseling, such (...) as that currently used at Counseling and Testing Sites, provided that sufficient written notice is given to the patients before testing and that they are specifically asked for permission. (shrink)