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The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 1, 1999


Jorge L. A. Garcia
Pages 179-188

Beyond Biophobic Medical Ethics
What’s the Mercy in Mercy-Killing?

A genuine bioethics would be fiercely devoted to human life (bios) and would express that devotion by articulating as well as advocating moral virtues that rigorously protect that value against the temptation to see life in purely instrumental terms. In my view, no genuine bioethics exists today. In what follows, I will question two fundamental assumptions often presumed in discussions of euthanasia and assisted suicide. These are (i) the agent does will her victim (i.e., her putative beneficiary) some significant human good, e.g., relief from pain, escape from becoming a burden to loved ones, a dignified death, or simply self-determination; (ii) in purposely helping someone to kill herself or in killing her for her own good, the agent wills her no serious harm. Put differently, I question the assumption of ‘mercy’ in so-called ‘mercy-killing’.

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