Here comes another post on ethics! This one is, I must admit, somewhat meta-ethical, despite my recent post
about the limited value of meta-ethical discussions when it comes to debates in first-order ethics
. As I pointed out in the discussion that followed that essay, it’s not that I don’t think that meta-ethics is interesting, it’s just that it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for refusing to get down and dirty about actual everyday moral questions.
I used to have the “meta” itch, but I learned to live with it and stop scratching it. It only irritates anyway, without doing much good work.
Let me explain.
If you are a regular (or even occasional) reader of Rationally Speaking you know that we often publish essays that have to do with ethics and moral philosophy
. That's because ethics is one of those things that always lurks in the background (and sometimes the foreground) of our lives, whether we reflect on it or not. And I of course think it is better to reflect on it, at least from time to time.
The families of some very severely brain injured patients believe that once all treatment options are exhausted, allowing their relatives to die with the help of terminal sedation would be a humane and compassionate option.
The authors interviewed the families of patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, found some relatives believed euthanasia by sedation would be preferable to withholding or withdrawing treatment. Currently, the withdrawal of treatment such as artificial nutrition and hydration is the only legal method guaranteed to allow death in patients in a vegetative state.
In a forthcoming episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast
, Julia and I discuss the philosophy and science of suicide, i.e. what empirical inquiry tells us about suicides (who commits them, how, what are the best strategies for prevention) and how philosophical reflection may lead us to think of suicide. In this post I will focus on the philosophical side of the discussion, for which an excellent summary source, with a number of additional references, is this article by Michael Cholbi
in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, to which I will keep referring below.