A philosopher and a clinical ethicist conduct an analysis of the practice of assisted suicide. They begin with the premise that health care providers may at times be assisting with suicide now, whether or not it is legal and whether or not the ethical dimensions have been solved. They contend that assisting a suicide might be morally right, but only when the patient’s choice is rational and free.

Referring to an earlier publication by Prado (Last Choice: Preemptive Suicide in Advanced Age, 1990; 2nd ed. 1998), they devote a chapter to each of three criteria used to determine the "rationality" of a choice for suicide, and another chapter to the "slippery slope" argument. A final chapter summarizes their contribution to this topic.


Written in an accessible style, the authors immediately set out their agreements and differences. The philosopher (Prado) has confidence that theory will provide a reliable guide to most situations, and that only in theory can such universals be found. The clinical ethicist (Taylor) thinks that each situation is different, and that clinicians are often frustrated by the abstractions of theory when it comes to dealing with individual patients. The result is a blend of theoretical analysis and clinical "reality checks."

The authors conclude that theory can help clarify a problem but it cannot provide absolutes and that clinical practice without consideration of theory will lead to confusion, accusations of malpractice, and diminished humanity. They plead for a combination of the two approaches through training that would sensitize clinicians to the advantages of philosophical analysis and the importance of finding objective criteria to aid in assessing each case.


Humanity Books

Place Published

Amherst, N.Y.



Page Count