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Death, Dying, and Organ TransplantationReconstructing Medical Ethics at the End of Life$
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Franklin G. Miller and Robert D. Truog

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199739172

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199739172.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 February 2021

Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment

Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment

Allowing to Die or Causing Death?

1 Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment
Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation

Franklin G. Miller

Robert D. Truog

Oxford University Press

A traditional norm of medical ethics is that doctors must not intentionally cause the death of their patients. However, withdrawing life-sustaining treatment has become a common practice in hospital intensive care units. This practice has been made consistent with the traditional norm by means of the conventional view in medical ethics that withdrawing life support allows the patient to die but does not cause death. In this chapter we challenge this conventional view. Adopting a common-sense conception of causation, we argue systematically that withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, such as mechanical ventilators, causes death. In addition, we argue that causing death by stopping life support is typically an intentional act. Nevertheless, causing death by withdrawing life-sustaining treatment is justified because it respects the self-determination and promotes the well-being of patients. The argument in Chapter 1 sets the stage for discussing the ethics of medical acts that cause death in subsequent chapters.

Keywords:   withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, killing, allowing to die, causation, intention, moral bias

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