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Withholding or withdrawing life support versus physician-assisted death: a distinction with a difference?

McClelland, William; Goligher, Ewan C.
Curr Opin Anaesthesiol; 32(2): 184-189, 2019 Apr.
Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30817393
PURPOSE OF REVIEW Withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining therapy is generally differentiated from physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia based on the distinction between intention and foresight. We reviewed the literature surrounding the validity of this distinction. RECENT


Many physicians from different specialties express a perceived distinction between intention and foresight. The distinction between intention and foresight differs from the morally irrelevant distinction between doing and allowing. Intention and foresight may be distinguished by their opposing directions of fit between world and mind. Intention is held to be of greater moral significance than foresight because it guides and constrains our actions, determines the moral quality of our actions, and expresses the moral character of the agent. Opponents of the distinction argue that it undermines moral accountability for foreseen consequences of our actions and is overly concerned with the physician's state of mind rather than the patient's experience. They also argue that intentions may be vague and difficult to express or ascertain.


Several reasons may be given in favor of the distinction between intention and foresight. Given this distinction, the moral permissibility of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining therapy does not necessarily entail the moral permissibility of physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.