Terminal sedation and euthanasia: The virtue in calling a spade what it is

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    Introduction Among the many practices, and proposed practices discussed in the end-of-life area, terminal sedation (TS) (sometimes called palliative sedation, a terminology that seems to be preferred by physicians involved in palliative care (Broeckaert & Olarte 2002; Lynch 2003)) has until recently been one of the least discussed, being hidden behind seemingly more contentious practices like voluntary active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. It has, however, now become clear that terminal sedation is widely practised, even in countries where euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide is legalised (de Graeff & Dean 2007; Claessens et al. 2008, 2011; Bilsen et al. 2009; Chambaere et al. 2010). The popularity of terminal sedation seems to be linked to two factors: (1) it is not conceived of as euthanasia or assisted suicide by doctors and patients; and (2) it is not regulated, legally or professionally, as strictly as euthanasia and therefore leaves more ‘wiggle room’ for decision-making, for instance in cases where the competence of the patient is questionable. This chapter will argue that some forms of TS are close to euthanasia in their ethical implications and that those forms of TS therefore ought to be regulated in a similar way as euthanasia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationContinuous Sedation at the End of Life: Ethical, Clinical and Legal Perspectives
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages12
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139856652
    ISBN (Print)9781107039216
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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