Neuroscience & Euthanasia draft essay

here is my contribution to this weeks seminar – it is a working paper in the handbook/introduction mode and my suggestion for a series: to cover a specific issue each and show what neuroscience/science can bring to philosophical & legal issues. You can download the paper here


2 Comments to “Neuroscience & Euthanasia draft essay”

  1. 1. Formal

    The paper may be divided into three sections:

    a) introduction and assumptions,

    b)indication of particular institutions which claim to have arguments for euthanasia decision making process (if any),

    c)review of influence of neuroscience on euthanasia debate.


    a) As regards assumptions:
    They seem irrelevant for the conclusion (?). If they constitute independent statements (not relevant for the conclusion) I can agree with the first one – voluntary euthanasia and withholding treatment is the same – but I cannot admit that in any case suicide and acting “through” an agent is the same. It is the same if we assume that particular person has a right to voluntary euthanasia (what is the subject of the public debate independently how stupid is it). But if we see the subject from perspective of adversaries of voluntary euthanasia which claim it shall be penalized this distinction makes sense- in first case (suicide) there is no sense to penalize because of death of subject which shall be penalized, in the second case (through agent) there is still a subject (agent) which can be penalized.

    b) As regards indication of institutions – I hardly see what the authors’s remarks has in common with a main subject – impact of neuroscience on the debate. They are rather loosely remarks on different subjects referring to the main subject of euthanasia. I hardly find any other aim then showing that any of these perspectives meet some obstacles on its way. However the author does not prove that particular institution does not have anything to offer from their perspective. Moreover it does not have to be rational offer , as the author’s assumes. It may be irrational, what from the one’s perspective does not have to be wrong. From religion perspective the problem of euthanasia is rather axiomatic then rational, so I do not find any place for philosophical debate here.

    c) Author shows how big influence may have results of neuroscience on euthanasia debate. It might be but its rather technical issue, not something what can change opinion of supporters of adversaries of implementation of particular solutions.

    3. Summary

    With difficulties I find what the author wants to say. If it is only the thing that fMRI might be a useful (technical) tool for execution of laws allowing for euthanasia – I agree – however it may be said in one sentence. If the author wanted to say something more – I hardly find it.
    Besides these detailed critic remarks the topic is very interesting 🙂


  2. Many thanks for the commments Lukasz – just a few clarifications below:

    you wrote “They seem irrelevant for the conclusion” yet the whole paper is intended to have the following structure: introduce the issue; show how previous approaches/agents have failed/fail to resolve or offer a viable alternative and, finally, show one way in which neuroscience is narrowing the field and, arguably, making progress towards resolving the debate.

    As such, it is hard to see exactly how I could omit these examples- there would be now context and the essay would have a ‘look what my mate told me about neuroscience down the pub’ character – hopefully this isn’t the case!

    I’m not sure if I grasp the main objection to the “institutions” – I agree that the recent findings of neuroscience are unlikely to convince a diehard pro lifer that euthanasia is permissible. I merely wanted to show that the arguments offered by, amongst others, the Catholic Church are incoherent and hardly have normative force beyond a core of believers.

    as regards c)the point is that philosophy can show how the counter arguments to PAS are unfounded and that there is a legal basis on which to frame a law for assisted suicide- does this do so?

    In conclusion, that is exactly what I wanted to say. To say it one sentence is…not really an essay and then one can easily ask questions such as “well what about x…” if one sticks to single sentence academia ;o)

    Just to reiterate, the form was deliberately chosen as an introductory handbook style entry of the “So what can science offer to philosophy and vice versa” and, as such, is more general and wide ranging an essay than I would usually produce- Does anyone think it might be an idea to make a series?

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