Document Type



Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Medicine and Health Sciences | Philosophy


John Hardwig argues that patients have a duty to end their lives when their continued existence imposes serious hardship on their caregivers. Hardwig has deflected many critics’ objections concerning the practical implications of his position. Our goal is to demonstrate the self-contradictory nature of the duty-to-die thesis. Once we eliminate the vagueness (over the essential conditions subtending a presumed duty to die) and the ambiguity (implicit in Hardwig’s use of the term “duty”), we find that the essential conditions for such a duty cannot be simultaneously satisfied. The problem is that the very process by which the duty to die is determined affects the qualitative states of the patient that are central to the determination itself. Although the duty-to-die thesis is defended on the basis of the harms caused to others by one’s continued existence, we conclude the essay by dispatching the idea that a duty to die might be a duty to oneself.


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