Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: A Natural Law Ethics Approach, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

A Natural Law Ethics Approach, 1st Edition

By Craig Paterson


228 pages

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Paperback: 9780754657460
pub: 2008-03-28
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As medical technology advances and severely injured or ill people can be kept alive and functioning long beyond what was previously medically possible, the debate surrounding the ethics of end-of-life care and quality-of-life issues has grown more urgent. In this lucid and vigorous book, Craig Paterson discusses assisted suicide and euthanasia from a fully fledged but non-dogmatic secular natural law perspective. He rehabilitates and revitalises the natural law approach to moral reasoning by developing a pluralistic account of just why we are required by practical rationality to respect and not violate key demands generated by the primary goods of persons, especially human life. Important issues that shape the moral quality of an action are explained and analysed: intention/foresight; action/omission; action/consequences; killing/letting die; innocence/non-innocence; person/non-person. Paterson defends the central normative proposition that ’it is always a serious moral wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human person, whether self or another, notwithstanding any further appeal to consequences or motive’.


'At a time when the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide are before legislators and the courts, and when public debate is dominated by religious advocates and anti-religious secularists, it is particularly welcome to have a careful and well constructed presentation of a purely philosophical defence of the idea that it is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent person as a means to an end, even an otherwise benign one. Craig Paterson sets out an account of moral reasoning that is of broad interest and shows how it can be applied in cases relating to the end of life. A very clear, useful and timely contribution.' John Haldane, University of St Andrews, UK 'There are few more significant contemporary public policy debates than the debate about whether voluntary euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide should be decriminalised. Sadly, much of the literature amounts to little more than an emotional polemic in favour of decriminalisation; there are relatively few books which advance a philosophical case against decriminalisation. This is one of the few. Building on the recent renaissance of natural law theory, the book advances a serious, secular natural law argument against decriminalisation. Not all its arguments will attract universal assent (even from natural law theorists) but the book is, nevertheless, a welcome contribution to the debate.' John Keown, Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Christian Ethics, Georgetown University, USA 'Dr. Paterson is writing on a question of undoubted practical importance - and considerable theoretical importance as well. His argument is dispassionate, thorough, theoretically sophisticated, and usually convincing. In the course of making his case against euthanasia and assisted suicide, he makes a provocative case for a determinedly secular version of natural law. I highly recommend the book to all those interested in either bioethics or natural law moral theory.' Professor Philip Devine, Providence College, USA

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Justifications for suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia; A revised natural law ethics; The good of human life; Suicide, assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia; Non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia; State intervention and the common good; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Craig Paterson is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and an independent scholar. Previously he was engaged in Information Science research at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA and was previously an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Providence College, USA.

About the Series

Live Questions in Ethics and Moral Philosophy

Live Questions in Ethics and Moral Philosophy
The series offers short, accessible studies addressing some of the most topical questions shared by moral philosophy and the social sciences. Written by leading figures who have published extensively in the chosen area, single-author volumes in the series review the most recent literature and identify what the author thinks are the most promising approaches to the live questions selected. The authors are philosophers who appreciate the importance and relevance of empirical work in their area. In addition to single-author volumes, the series will include collections of contributions on live questions. The collections will consist of important published literature and freshly commissioned pieces, with introductions explaining why the contributions represent progress in the treatment of the live questions selected. Topic areas of focus in this series include: Inequality; Ageing; Minorities; Refugees; Health Care; Childhood; Globalisation; Genocide; Civil Society; Privacy, Secrecy; Sustainability; Public Office; Harm and Offence.

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