These rights confer adult status on patients whom paternalists regard as children, replacing quasi-familial with quasi-legal relations. A patient’s “free and informed consent” reflects an implicit therapeutic contract, defined and reviewed as treatment proceeds. A physician who treats without such consent is not a patriarch, but a batterer. Less litigiously, these rights define a “principle of autonomy” traced to Kantian notions of respect for persons and inherent human dignity.

... Does the principle (contra Kant) cover voluntary euthanasia?

Solely from the quote above, how do you determine/deduce which Kantian notion conflicts with voluntary euthanasia? I don't understand the particular meaning of trace: is it ODO's Definition 1.1?

to trace = Find or describe the origin or development of

Does trace mean that principle of autonomy refutes voluntary euthanasia? Or does only 'respect ... and human dignity' refute euthanasia? Or both?

Please explain the steps, thought processes; I’d like to try to resolve this myself in the future?


The use of trace here does not touch, at this point, upon the relationship of the principle of autonomy to voluntary euthanasia. Traced states merely that the principle may be shown to have its origin in the Kantian notions. Prof. Ruddick does not demonstrate that historical derivation, but the conceptual relationship between the principle and the notions is what matters and is, I think, pretty self-evident.

In what follows, however, Ruddick omits an important point: that Kant in fact argued that killing oneself violates what Ruddick calls the principle of autonomy because the suicide is "making use of his person merely as a means to maintain a tolerable condition until the end of his life”. That is why Ruddick employs the phrase contra Kant; but since this explanation is omitted you cannot "determine/deduce which Kantian notion conflicts with voluntary euthanasia” solely from the passage quoted.

You need not conclude from this that Ruddick’s omission is blameworthy: his article is addressed to a professional audience who would be familiar with Kant’s thought on the matter. You may, however, conclude that moving the passage out of that context into a general examination paper was injudicious.

(I think, by the way, that you are wrong to ask which Kantian notion is in play: the plural ‘notions’ are clearly aspects of a single underlying concept.)

  • +1. Thanks. Would you please enlarge on your last para in brackets? How did I err? What's the 'single underlying concept'? I know no philosophy so apologise if this is the problem. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Oct 19 '14 at 7:25
  • Will you please to respond in your answer, and not as a comment? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Oct 19 '14 at 7:27

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