The Devil's Choice: Re-Thinking Law, Ethics, and Symptom Relief in Palliative Care


  • Roger S. Magnusson Ph.D.

    1. Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Sydney. His book, Angels of Death: Exploring the Euthanasia Underground (Yale University Press, 2002) documents the surreptitious practice of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia among health professionals working with HIV/AIDS patients.
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Health professionals do not always have the luxury of making “right” choices. This article introduces the “devil's choice” as a metaphor to describe medical choices that arise in circumstances where all the available options are both unwanted and perverse. Using the devil's choice, the paper criticizes the principle of double effect and provides a re-interpretation of the conventional legal and ethical account of symptom relief in palliative care.