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The Ethics of Death

Religious and Philosophical Perspectives in Dialogue

by Lloyd Steffen and Dennis R. Cooley

Publication Year: 2014

For the living, death has a moral dimension. When we confront death and dying in our own lives and in the lives of others, we ask questions about the good, right, and fitting as they relate to our experiences of human mortality. When others die, the living are left with moral questions—questions that often generate personal inquiry as to whether a particular death was “good” or whether it was tragic, terrifying, or peaceful.

In The Ethics of Death, the authors, one a philosopher and one a religious studies scholar, undertake an examination of the deaths that we experience as members of a larger moral community. Their respectful and engaging dialogue highlights the complex and challenging issues that surround many deaths in our modern world and helps readers frame thoughtful responses.

Unafraid of difficult topics, Steffen and Cooley fully engage suicide, physician assisted suicide, euthanasia, capital punishment, abortion, and war as areas of life where death poses moral challenges.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedications

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pp. vii

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pp. 1-6

The title of this book is odd. Although ethical issues often take center stage in discussions of dying, particularly around actions to hasten, inflict, or prevent death, the idea of an “ethics of death” is peculiar. Ethics is to a large extent concerned with action, and death is not an action. It is more like a state, but to call it a state implies a state of being—namely, the state of being dead—and that...

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1. Ethical Perspectives

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pp. 7-52

In all moral decision making, there are two necessary components: a value theory and a normative theory. The value theory tells us what things, including objects and properties, such as being pleased or being a living thing, have a worth that should be taken into account in some way when making a decision...

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2. Abortion

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pp. 53-100

It would be trite but true to say that abortion is a contentious moral issue in the United States, although it seems less of a problem in other areas of the world. Many people’s feelings run deep on the issue, which makes it a very personal thing for them because it challenges who they think they are...

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3. The Death Penalty

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pp. 101-148

Discussions about the death penalty seem fewer and less volatile than in years past. Reasons for this include, but are not limited to, shifting attitudes about the death penalty and more pressing needs demanding attention, such as a continuing focus on abortion in some areas of the world and on war in others...

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4. War

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pp. 149-184

Although we generally begin each chapter by sketching out the arguments for or against a position, war does not lend itself as easily to this approach. This difference is likely caused by how bad wars are and the resulting destruction of life, relationships, stability, property, and other goods on which individuals and...

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5. Suicide

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pp. 185-228

Anyone thinking about the issue of suicide generally begins with negative attitudes and conclusions on the subject, although there is a clear distinction between suicides done for purely bad reasons and those done as sacrifices for others.1 Suicide is just an evil thing and wrong to do, as the vast majority of folks...

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6. End of Life I: Physician-Assisted Suicide

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pp. 229-268

We continue with an analysis of end-of-life issues, focusing in this chapter specifically on physician-assisted suicide, or PAS. PAS clearly falls under the heading of euthanasia, but because of the ethical commitment health care professionals make to work diligently toward the well-being of their patients...

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7. The End of Life II: Futility/Euthanasia

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pp. 269-314

Medical science has extended life in ways that could not have been imagined a mere hundred years ago. Medical technologies, advanced life-sustaining treatments, new drug therapies, and all kinds of emergency interventions have contributed to holding death at bay as people face the end of their lives...

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8. The Value of Death

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pp. 315-318

Death is a value-laden term. The term reaches our ears shrouded in negativity; and to hear the word ‘death’ uttered can, as W. H. Auden put it, “stop all the clocks.” Death, even the mention of it, can be trusted to arouse feelings of apprehension as we suppress the anxiety that attaches to it and try to avoid...

Index of Names

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pp. 319-322

Index of Subjects

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pp. 323-325

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781451487572
E-ISBN-10: 1451487576
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800699192
Print-ISBN-10: 080069919x

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2014