Year: 1997 Source: Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, v.22, no.2, (1997), p.99-123 SIEC No: 20021067

At least from the standpoint of contemporary cultural and ethical resources, physicians have argued eloquently and exhaustively both for and against physician-assisted suicide. If one avoids the temptation to ruthlessly simplify either position to immorality or error, then a strange dilemma arises. How is it that well educated and intelligent physicians, committed strongly and compassionately to the care of their patients, argue adamantly for opposing positions? Thus rather than simply rehashing old arguments, this essay attempts to rethink the nature of human morality as both a source and a fracturing of human rationality – and with morality, the “question” of human nature in the context of violence, oppresion, service and obligation. This interpretation of moral life is laid out roughly along the lines of the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and further clarified through a discussion of the Hippocratic Oath. These resources are then brought to bear on the specific arguments and recommendations concerning physician-assisted suicide. (19 refs)