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Death in Our Life


  • This is the text of the Annual Lecture of the Society for Applied Philosophy, delivered in Oxford on 22 May 2012.


This paper examines a central aspect of the relations between duration and quality of life by considering the moral right to voluntary euthanasia, and some aspects of the moral case for a legal right to euthanasia. Would widespread acceptance of a right to voluntary euthanasia lead to widespread changes in attitudes to life and death? Many of its advocates deny that, seeing it as a narrow right enabling people to avoid ending their life in great pain or total dependence, or a vegetative state. I argue that the right cannot cogently be conceived as a narrow right, confined to very limited circumstances. It is based on the value of having the normative power to choose the time and manner of one's death. Its recognition will be accompanied by far reaching changes in culture and attitudes, and these changes will enrich people's life by enabling them to integrate their death as part of their lives.

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