A Duty to Die

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Madison Sloan
Philosophy 252
Trevor Hedberg
Paper #4
“Is There a Duty to Die” by John Hardwig
“Is There a Duty to Die” and “A Duty to Care Revisited” debate over one’s duty to others when a life becomes burdensome to others. Who is more morally obligated, the caregivers or the sick and elderly? Cohn and Lynn argue that we are morally obligated to care for the dying and allow them to take their time, while Hardwig believes that the dying have an obligation to die rather than burden their loved ones. I believe that a moderate approach should be taken to the issue. I agree with Hardwig that it should be a mutual decision between the dying and their family, but I do not believe that there may ever be a situation where a person is morally obligated to die. The right to life trumps everything, however there may be circumstances when it may be more moral to die rather than burden caregivers and loved ones.

John Hardwig believes that “there is a duty to refuse life-prolonging treatment and also a duty to complete advance directives refusing life-prolonging treatment” (35). He holds this view when one’s illness would cause death and even when one would prefer to live. He backs up his argument by reminding us that our actions affect others, not just ourselves, and he believes that our duty to loved ones is greater than our own right to life. He believes that since medical care and treatment can be financially burdensome to our families, if the benefit to the dying is minor in comparison then there is a duty to die to relieve loved ones of this financial burden. Hardwig provides two compelling examples: the case of Captain Oates and the case of the 87-year-old woman with congestive heart failure.

Captain Oates was a member of an expedition to the South Pole when he became too sick to continue on the mission. It became apparent that he would not be able to make the rest of the journey and that he also would not be capable of making the journey home. His team...
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