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Framing euthanasia
  1. J P Bishop
  1. Correspondence to:
 J P Bishop. Peninsula Medical School
 Knowledge Spa, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro TR1 3HD, UK; jeffrey.bishop{at}

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Death cannot be mastered through a metaphysics of efficiency that interprets all actions in terms only of cause and effect, but it can be transcended if we leave the frame open to death’s ambiguity

In the second of this two part series, I describe how in shifting our frames from one of human purpose and meaning to one of efficiency, we shift the possible answers we get to our questions about voluntary active euthanasia (VAE) and physician assisted suicide (PAS). Thus, by placing VAE/PAS within the frame of efficiency, we narrow our focus to the final effect in the world of cause and effect—namely death. Thus, in ensconcing euthanasia within a legal framework meant to instrumentally and efficiently control euthanasia, we are in fact narrowing our focus on death. Thus, in legalising VAE/PAS we are not just adding one choice to a panoply of other choices, we are in fact changing the nature of all choices, for each choice conditions all others. We should therefore live with the lie that VAE/PAS do not happen as opposed to living with the lie that through efficient legal control we protect patients from medical dominance.


Several years ago an acquaintance told me about a terrible situation in which he found himself during the Vietnam war. He was Green Beret—one of the elite special forces corps of the US army. He was in an area that was officially off limits to the US. His unit came under heavy fire and a buddy was shot in several places but was still alive. His comrade was in serious pain, but what scared him the most was that he might die in the jungle, be eaten by a wild animal, or be captured by the enemy. There was no way to get him out. The wounded soldier …

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