"Legitimate Medical Purpose": Two Ethicists Views
Continuing on with the discussion of whether physician assisted suicide represents a "legitimate medical purpose". In the previous posting, I gave the basis for my conclusion that the state is, as the regulator of medical practice, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, the government involved in establishing whether such an act is indeed ligitimate. This subject of the legitimate medical purpose of physician assisted suicide was discussed on a bioethics listserv recently. With their permission, I would like to post here the two contrasting views of two ethicists who wrote to the listserv. What do you think about the role of physicians in assisted suicide? ..Maurice.
medicine as a distinct discipline. I invite one and all to attempt to parse this
notion in a way that avoids conflating 'medical legitimacy' with 'moral
legitimacy' and shows how intentional killilng serves a legitimate medical
To the best of my knowledge, the only serious attempt along these lines is:
Miller, F. G., & Brody, H. (1995). Professional integrity and physician-assisted
death. Hastings Center Report, 25, 8 * 17.
The way these authors approach the task is to include helping patients to
achieve a good death among the constitutive goals of medicine. But it turns out
to be an odd sort of constitutive goal, since it can't underwrite a
determination of medical indications.
company actually includes many more.
Rhodes R. Physicians, Assisted Suicide, and the Right to Live or Die, chapter in
Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate, Battin MP, Rhodes R and Silvers A,
Routledge: New York. 1998:165-176.
If you see medicine as a human creation (rather than an immutable feature of the
universe with a telos), then it is reasonable to see the profession as entrusted
with a socially defined set of knowledge, powers, & privileges to be used for
the good of patients and society. Then, just as we call the fire department to
rescue children and cats from trees when no fire is involved, we call upon
doctors to assist patients in implementing their end of life decisions.
Rosamond Rhodes, PhD