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Contesting the Equivalency of Continuous Sedation until Death and Physician-assisted Suicide/Euthanasia: A Commentary on LiPuma


, : Contesting the Equivalency of Continuous Sedation until Death and Physician-assisted Suicide/Euthanasia: A Commentary on LiPuma. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 40(5): 529-553

Patients who are imminently dying sometimes experience symptoms refractory to traditional palliative interventions, and in rare cases, continuous sedation is offered. Samuel H. LiPuma, in a recent article in this Journal, argues that continuous sedation until death is equivalent to physician-assisted suicide/euthanasia based on a higher brain neocortical definition of death. We contest his position that continuous sedation involves killing and offer four objections to the equivalency thesis. First, sedation practices are proportional in a way that physician-assisted suicide/euthanasia is not. Second, continuous sedation may not entirely abolish consciousness. Third, LiPuma's particular version of higher brain neocortical death relies on an implausibly weak construal of irreversibility--a position that is especially problematic in the case of continuous sedation. Finally, we explain why continuous sedation until death is not functionally equivalent to neocortical death and, hence, physician-assisted suicide/euthanasia. Concluding remarks review the differences between these two end-of-life practices.

US$19.90

PMID: 26242447

DOI: 10.1093/jmp/jhv018


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