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Bioethics. 2012 Jan;26(1):1-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2010.01801.x. Epub 2010 Feb 11.

'To thine own self be true': on the loss of integrity as a kind of suffering.

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  • 1University of Amsterdam, Philosophy, Netherlands. h.w.j.m.wijsbek@uva.nl

Abstract

One of the requirements in the Dutch regulation for euthanasia and assisted suicide is that the doctor must be satisfied 'that the patient's suffering is unbearable, and that there is no prospect of improvement.' In the notorious Chabot case, a psychiatrist assisted a 50 year old woman in suicide, although she did not suffer from any somatic disease, nor strictly speaking from any psychiatric condition. In Seduced by Death, Herbert Hendin concluded that apparently the Dutch regulation now allows physicians to assist anyone in suicide simply because he or she is unhappy. In this paper, I reject Hendin's conclusion and in particular his description of Mrs Boomsma as someone who was 'simply unhappy.' After a detailed narration of her lifestory, I turn to the American philosopher Harry Frankfurt's account of volitional incapacity and love for a more accurate characterization of her suffering. Having been through what she had, she could only go on living as another person than the one she had been when she was a happy mother. That would have violated her integrity, and that she could not bring herself to do.

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