Should we allow physician assistance in dying?

Peter Singer • APRIL 14, 2015

Peter Singer of Princeton University examines the moral and legal concerns surrounding physician assistance in dying. According to Singer, there is a tradition in the Western world that life is sacrosanct and decisions about death should not be made by people. However, medical technology makes these questions more difficult, as we can now keep people alive who have no prospects of recovering consciousness. According to Singer, a key development was when modern medical experts redefined death to include brain death as death. With that change, hospitals no longer had to house brain dead patients, and they could use them as a source of organs for transplants. Singer argues that while society has become more open to the idea of playing a role in assisting death, it is still an issue that demands care. Singer sees the shift in the ethical norm as an overall positive development, arguing that allowing assistance in death respects individual autonomy and is more humane.

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