W the euthanasia debate, but the attitudes

W hy does the popular culture respond to euthanasia? W e rarely find the question and
never find the answer in bioethics. Dilem m a ethics or quandary ethics, at the heart o f the
field, fail to address the root causes o f the moral anarchy o f our times. Despite calls from
bioethicists, such as Daniel Callahan, for a communitarian bioethics1 dealing with the
moral life in its societal dimension, it is still lacking. This is disappointing considering
the fact that cultural biases and attitudes almost single-handedly determine the shape and
direction o f society. The prevailing attitudes in a culture do not merely influence the
debate; they determine the issues.
A revolution in attitudes towards death and suffering has taken place in our present
age. It is not technology itself that has given us the euthanasia debate, but the attitudes
towards death and suffering which it helped to shape. Moral debate doesn’t occur in a
cultural vacuum. The key issues are best understood within the context o f the cultural
background from which they emerged.
The euthanasia debate isn’t about ‘pulling the plug’. It’s about our attitudes to the
realities o f death and suffering. It concerns our attitudes towards fellow human beings in
their suffering and dying. It reflects our attitudes towards human dignity when it is
assaulted by disease and dying. It w ill take more than equations-like moral mathematics
to balance the m odem drive for euthanasia. It w ill necessitate a critical analysis o f
contemporary attitudes towards death and suffering. Only then w ill w e be nourishing


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