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Death - whose decision? Euthanasia and the terminally ill
  1. Sharon I Fraser,
  2. James W Walters
  1. Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, USA


    In Australia and Oregon, USA, legislation to permit statutory sanctioned physician-assisted dying was enacted. However, opponents, many of whom held strong religious views, were successful with repeal in Australia. Similar opposition in Oregon was formidable, but ultimately lost in a 60-40% vote reaffirming physician-assisted dying. This paper examines the human dilemma which arises when technological advances in end-of-life medicine conflict with traditional and religious sanctity-of-life values. Society places high value on personal autonomy, particularly in the United States. We compare the potential for inherent contradictions and arbitrary decisions where patient autonomy is either permitted or forbidden. The broader implications for human experience resulting from new legislation in both Australia and Oregon are discussed. We conclude that allowing autonomy for the terminally ill, within circumscribed options, results in fewer ethical contradictions and greater preservation of dignity.

    • Physician-assisted suicide
    • voluntary euthanasia
    • patient autonomy
    • religious belief

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    • Sharon I Fraser, BA, MS, is a Clinical Speech Pathologist and is a Graduate Student of the Faculty of Religion, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, USA. James W Walters, PhD, is Professor of Ethics in the Faculty of Religion, Loma Linda University.

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