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A response to critics: weakening the ethical distinction between euthanasia, palliative opioid use and palliative sedation
  1. Thomas D Riisfeldt
  1. Department of Philosophy, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas D Riisfeldt, Department of Philosophy, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; ThomasDavid.Riisfeldt{at}health.nsw.gov.au

Abstract

My essay ‘Weakening the ethical distinction between euthanasia, palliative opioid use and palliative sedation’ has recently generated some critique which I will attempt to address in this response. Regarding the empirical question of whether palliative opioid and sedative use shorten survival time, Schofield et al raise the three concerns that my literature review contains a cherry-picking bias through focusing solely on the palliative care population, that continuous deep palliative sedation falls beyond the scope of routine palliative care, and that my research may contribute to opiophobia and be harmful to palliative care provision globally. Materstvedt argues that euthanasia ‘ends’ rather than ‘relieves’ suffering and is not a treatment, and that the arguments in my essay are therefore predicated on a ‘category mistake’ and are a non-starter. Symons and Giebel both raise the concern that my Kantian and Millian interpretation of the Doctrine of Double Effect is anachronistic, and that when interpreted from the contemporaneous perspective of Aquinas it is a sound ethical principle. Giebel also argues that palliative opioid and sedative use do meet the Doctrine of Double Effect’s four criteria on this Thomistic account, and that it does not contradict the Doctrine of the Sanctity of Human Life. In this response I will explore and defend against most of these claims, in doing so clarifying my original argument that the empirical and ethical differences between palliative opioid/sedative use and euthanasia may not be as significant as often believed, thereby advancing the case for euthanasia.

  • Euthanasia
  • Palliative Care
  • End-of-life
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Footnotes

  • Contributors TR researched, wrote and edited this response individually.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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