At the End of Life

  • Damien Keown


The moral issues which arise at the end of life are no less complex than those surrounding its beginning. Nor is the task of analysing these issues made any easier by the tendency in contemporary discussions to run many of them together as, for example, by failing to distinguish clearly between euthanasia and suicide, or euthanasia and the withdrawal of futile medical treatment. We will endeavour as far as possible, therefore, to keep the discussion of the important ethical issues at the end of life as separate from one another as possible. Before turning to the moral issues, however, our first task is to arrive at a definition of death which Buddhism would endorse. We discuss first of all the general problem of defining death, and then move on to consider in Section II how death is defined in the early sources. The conclusions we reach regarding the Buddhist concept of death will equip us to address in Section III the moral issues raised by patients in a ‘persistent vegetative state’ (PVS). In Sections IV and V we consider euthanasia from the perspective of early and contemporary sources respectively.


Brain Death Persistent Vegetative State Early Source Active Euthanasia Voluntary Euthanasia 
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Copyright information

© Damien Keown 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damien Keown
    • 1
  1. 1.Goldsmiths, University of LondonUK

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