Animals, advance directives, and prudence: Should we let the cheerfully demented die?

Ethics, Medicine and Public Health 2 (4):481-489 (2016)
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A high level of confidence in the identity of individuals is required to let them die as ordered by an advance directive. Thus, if we are animalists, then we should lack the confidence required to apply lethal advance directives to the cheerfully demented, or so I argue. In short, there is consensus among animalists that the best way to avoid serious objections to their account is to adopt an ontology that denies the existence of brains, hands, tables, chairs, iced-tea, and lemonade. The adoption of such an ontology reduces the justificatory force of commonsense, which is key in arguing that we are animals and that we persist as long as we are biologically alive. With this loss of justification comes the loss of a high level of confidence that Quinn-pre-dementia’s lethal advanced directive applies to Quinn-post-dementia, via identity. If we do not have a high level of confidence that Quinn-pre-dementia’s advanced directive applies to Quinn-post- dementia, then it is not enough (on its own) to let Quinn-post-dementia die.

Author's Profile

David Limbaugh
State University of New York (SUNY)


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