Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics

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Macmillan, Apr 15, 1996 - Medical - 256 pages
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Rethinking Life and Death is a book that only the distinguished philosopher Peter Singer could write - a book that creates nothing less than a new set of ethics for the next century. Singer shows just why our traditional ethic of life and death is collapsing all around us - but instead of lamenting the fact, as traditional moralists do, he sees it as an opportunity to move forward to a more soundly based approach. In discussing themes like euthanasia, brain death, abortion, and the treatment of patients in a persistent vegetative state, Singer boldly discards the old rhetoric and meaningless cliches about the sanctity of human life. Instead he produces a fresh account of when life should be regarded as precious and worth preserving, and when it should not be. Using provocative case studies, Singer vividly describes the break-up of our current ethic of life and death. He asks penetrating questions like: What are the results of the classic Dutch experiment with voluntary euthanasia? What are its implications for the future and will a similar system work in the United States? Is the definition of death in terms of "brain death" a medical judgment? Or is it an ethical choice based on our need for organs and the emotional and financial futility of keeping human beings in this state alive? Why do we consider it wrong to take organs from a baby born without a brain, but acceptable to take them from an ape? Is it really possible to defend abortion on the grounds of "choice" or do we have to make up our minds first about the status of the fetus and whether it has rights in the first place? With Rethinking Life and Death, Peter Singer describes a world that has already begun to be revolutionizedby twenty-first-century technology, and in doing so, provides us all with a profound reexamination of the ethics that govern how we live and how we die.
 

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RETHINKING LIFE AND DEATH: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

The doctrine of the sanctity of human life is in deep trouble, claims Australian philospher Singer (The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology, 1981, etc.), who gives his own clear ideas of what ... Read full review

Rethinking life and death: the collapse of our traditional ethics

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Singer (Animal Liberation, LJ 3/15/90. 2d ed.) calls for a revolution in ethical thinking about life and death. Human beings, in his view, form merely one species among others, and obligations to ... Read full review

Contents

PROLOGUE
1
Doubtful Endings
7
BIRTH AFTER DEATH
9
A German story
12
Our choice
16
HOW DEATH WAS REDEFINED
20
The Harvard committee on the determination of death
22
A revolution without opposition
28
Unlocking the abortion deadlock
100
MAKING QUALITY OF LIFE JUDGMENTS
106
Treating to die
115
Selective nontreatment and infanticide
128
ASKING FOR DEATH
132
The solution?
141
How voluntary euthanasia became possible in the Netherlands
143
The coming struggle for the right to die
147

Who believes it?
32
An unstable compromise
35
DR SHANNS DILEMMA
38
Breathing but dead?
42
The case for a higher brain definition of death
46
Against brain death
50
A way forward?
54
TONY BLAND AND THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE
57
Deciding on the basis of quality of life
65
Lawfully intending to end innocent human life
68
Discarding a fig leaf
70
Beyond the sanctity of human life
73
Acts and omissions
75
Crumbling at the Edges
81
UNCERTAIN BEGINNINGS
83
The unavoidable issue
85
The era of legal abortion
90
New reproductive technology and the abortion debate
93
Sliding down a slippery slope?
150
Breaking the commandment
157
BEYOND THE DISCONTINUOUS MIND
159
Whose organs may we take?
163
In Gods image and at the centre of the universe
165
The western tradition under attack
169
Who is Homo?
172
Who is a person?
180
Towards a Coherent Approach
185
IN PLACE OF THE OLD ETHIC
187
Rewriting the commandments
189
Some answers
206
The basis of the new approach to life and death
219
NOTES
223
BIBLIOGRAPHY
238
INDEX
247
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Peter Singer teaches at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. One of founding fathers of the Animal Rights Movement, he is the author of the bestselling Animal Liberation.

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