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Assisted Suicide | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #53

Assisted Suicide

Be it resolved, people have the right to choose how and when to die.

Guests
Dominic Wilkinson
E. Wesley Ely

About this episode

Everyone who enters the medical field does so altruistically, standing steadfast against the ever-present threat of death and disease. But as any doctor knows, there are limits to what they can do. At a certain point, the goal shifts from curative to palliative care. At this stage, the goal is no longer to save a life, but to relieve suffering as best as possible. How to do so, and the point at which suffering becomes worse than death, is highly contested. A growing movement of doctors, nurses, and ethicists argue that patients should be empowered in the face of this impossible choice. They argue that just as a patient has a right to choose how to live, they should also choose how and when to die. They argue it is ethically and morally shortsighted to keep suffering patients alive at all costs, and that euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are a mercy, not a crime.

But others in the field argue that life is far too sacred to place in anyone's hands, doctor or patient. Even on the brink of death, lives have meaning and must be preserved. They argue that the oath that doctors take forbid them from making these types of decisions regardless of the state of their patient. And that those that advocate for physician assisted suicide are doing their patience, and themselves, a massive disservice.

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Guests

Dominic Wilkinson

“It's time to be honest and consistent about end of life choice. People have the right to choose how and when to die.”

Dominic Wilkinson

“It's time to be honest and consistent about end of life choice. People have the right to choose how and when to die.”

Dominic Wilkinson is Director of Medical Ethics and Professor of Medical Ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford. He is a consultant in newborn intensive care at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. He also holds a health practitioner research fellowship with the Wellcome Trust and is a senior research fellow at Jesus College Oxford. 
 
Dominic has published more than 120 academic articles relating to ethical issues in intensive care for adults, children and newborn infants. He is the author of 'Death or Disability? He is co-author (with Julian Savulescu) of Ethics, Conflict and Medical treatment for children, from disagreement to dissensus. He was Editor and Associate Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics from 2011-2018.

E. Wesley Ely

“If you tell me why you ought to respect a patient's autonomy, I'll tell you why you ought not kill that person."

E. Wesley Ely

“If you tell me why you ought to respect a patient's autonomy, I'll tell you why you ought not kill that person."

Eugene Wesley Ely Jr. is an American physician and professor of medicine as the Grant W. Liddle Endowed Chair at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He is conducting research as a geriatric intensivist in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and the Center for Health Services Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He is also the associate director of research at the Tennessee Valley Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 
 
He is the author of Every Deep Drawn Breath, a rich blend of science, medical history, profoundly humane patient stories, and personal reflection. Dr. Wes Ely’s mission is to prevent patients from being inadvertently harmed by the technology that is keeping them alive. Readers will experience the world of critical care through the eyes of this physician who drastically changed his clinical practice, and through cutting-edge research convinced others to do the same.

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