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Environmental Ethics

Volume 27, Issue 1, Spring 2005

Frank Chessa
Pages 23-41

Endangered Species and the Right to Die

Assuming that both humans and nonhuman organisms have intrinsic value, the concept of a “death with dignity” should extend to the natural world. Recently, an effort has been undertaken to save the razorback sucker, an endangered species of fish in the Colorado River. Razorback are bred and raised in captivity and transferred to the river only when large enough to survive predation by nonnative fish. While this effort is well-intentioned, there is little chance that the razorback will again live unassisted in the Colorado River. There may be human-centered reasons for saving the razorback. However, just as respecting a person sometimes requires limiting his or her life-sustaining medical treatment, so too respecting the razorback may require removing human assistance with its reproductive cycle.

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