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January 24, 2006


kenB, thanks for the link, though it did make my eyes glaze over despite its clarity - will try again when it's not after dinner.

I don't think it is inherently irrational to treat a human who is growing into his brain under a slightly different moral understanding for ending his life than a person who is dying and exhibits brain death.

aaarrgghh.... I seem to agree with Sebastian more than with Hilzoy, how do I handle this new universe I live in :) ?

I think that "killing humans is wrong" is a moral value that is shared quite universally. For me it is more a 'human' value that religions picked up on than one that comes from religion. But there are both rational argumenst that have an impact (when is something alive) and other moral values (are you entitled to decide about your own body).

As I said in the abortion thread: I think that with abortion most people can find common ground about what is acceptable for them, even if it is not ideal, because they recognize the other persons moral values. The discussion is usually about when the child is "alive enough' to be an entity with own rights and when those rights take precedent over the right of the mother to decide about her own life and body.

Euthanasia is another item where several moral values clash and one has to decide which ones take precedent. Some of those are religiously inspired (people who believe that god gave them life and thus that they cannot decide about it themselves). You can discuss the limits and interpretation of that value (what's a gift, who owns what, etc.). But it clashes with the value others have when they feel that they can decide about their lifes because they can decide about their body. Except for people who feel that the ownership lies with the living human no matter from which source life originates. How do you decide about how normative (obligatory?) those values can be?

In the Netherlands we feel that the right of self-determination is very important. We also (in general of course, not everybody holds the exact same belief) beliefe that society has to protect it's members - even against themselves. So euthanasia is accepted, but we have to be reasonably sure that you really want it (if you have an agreement with your doctor but you cannot clearly communicate your desires AT THE MOMENT of euthanisation, it cannot happen) and we have to agree that living on is worse than dying for the deciding person.

In the Netherlands about 80% of the population is happy with our euthanatia rules, in the USA there is much less support though our societies share the two basic values about self-determination and society protecting it's own members. Is the religious component stronger? Are you more normative? Is my observation that the US has a more distrustfull society correct and has that an impact? Is the weight of the self-determination value stronger in our society than in yours?

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