Voluntary euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and the goals of medicine

J Med Philos. 2006 Apr;31(2):121-37. doi: 10.1080/03605310600588665.


It is plausible that what possible courses of action patients may legitimately expect their physicians to take is ultimately determined by what medicine as a profession is supposed to do and, consequently, that we can determine the moral acceptability of voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide on the basis of identifying the proper goals of medicine. This article examines the main ways of defining the proper goals of medicine found in the recent bioethics literature and argues that they cannot provide a clear answer to the question of whether or not voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are morally acceptable. It is suggested that to find a plausible answer to this question and to complete the task of defining the proper goals of medicine, we must determine what is the best philosophical theory about the nature of prudential value.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Euthanasia, Active, Voluntary*
  • Humans
  • Philosophy, Medical*
  • Public Opinion
  • Suicide, Assisted*
  • Thanatology
  • Value of Life*