What is a death with dignity?

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28 (4):461 – 487 (2003)
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Proponents of the legalization of assisted suicide often appeal to our supposed right to "die with dignity" to defend their case. I examine and assess different notions of "dignity" that are operating in many arguments for the legalization of assisted suicide, and I find them all to be deficient. I then consider an alternative conception of dignity that is based on Aristotle's conception of the conditions on the best life. I conclude that, while such a conception of dignity fits best with our intuitions about the conditions under which a life has dignity, it supports the legalization of assisted suicide only under very limited circumstances.

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Jyl Gentzler
Amherst College


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