July 4, 1826

Margaret Pabst Battin

in Ending Life

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780195140279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850280 | DOI:
July 4, 1826

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John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively the second and third presidents of the new United States of America, died on the same day, July 4, 1826. Both were old men and ill. What could explain this and what would the implications be for reflection in bioethics about the end of life? There are at least six principal avenues to explore, but all of them raise further issues: coincidence, divine intervention, “hanging on”, being allowed or caused to die by others (intervention by physician or family), allowing oneself to die, and causing oneself to die. All six possibilities these explanations raise are central to the very questions about death and dying that are so controversial today, almost two hundred years after the deaths of Adams and Jefferson, as disputes over withdrawing and withholding treatment, allowing to die, the overuse of morphine, terminal sedation, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia play huge roles in friction over modern medicine.

Keywords: John Adams; Thomas Jefferson; bioethics; end of life; death; dying; physician-assisted suicide; euthanasia; medicine; terminal sedation

Chapter.  5495 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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