2009 | 12 | 1 | 97-120
Article title

Suicide, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: When People Choose to Die, Does It Matter What We Call It?

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Title variants
Samobójstwo, samobójstwo wspomagane i eutanazja. Czy ważne jest, jak nazwiemy to, że ludzie postanawiają umrzeć?
Languages of publication
In this article, I raise some questions about two human phenomena—suicide and euthanasia, in which people choose to die, and take steps to arrange their deaths. I am concerned with these phenomena at three levels: ·With the language that we use to describe and talk about them. ·With the ways in which the words we use impact on how we relate to those who wish for death or who act in ways that suggest that they do, even if they don't. ·With some ethical issues that arise in relation to them. I begin with a discussion of the impoverished language and conceptual landscape of suicide and suicidal self harm, and suggest that this poverty of language is unhelpful, because it frequently leads to the mislabelling of deliberate self-harming and apparently self-harming acts. Through discussion of some problems with the current language, and of some real and hypothetical stories about suicide and acts that resemble suicide, but are distinct from it, I introduce some new ways of thinking about and labelling these most distressing of human phenomena. Later, I turn to the way in which the term 'assisted suicide' has begun to be used to label 'arranged deaths' that are more properly referred to as 'euthanasia'. Nowadays, in many countries, including mine, more and more people not only want to have the opportunity to decide on the time of their dying, but want to arrange their deaths with the blessing of the legal system. The wishes of these people are important, because they concern the balance between life and death; between suffering and release; between care and its lack; between the public good and the private will, and between liberty and constraint. Most discussions of 'assisted suicide' and euthanasia focus on particular cases in which people wish to die, or on the way in which 'arranged deaths'— whatever we call them—are viewed and treated legally in different countries. By contrast, I say a little about the reasons for the growing popularity of the term 'assisted suicide'. En route I try to answer the question 'When people choose to die, does it matter what we call it?' I end with some comments about suicide, euthanasia and human dignity.
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