Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 171–180 | Cite as

Sedation and care at the end of life

  • Daniel P. SulmasyEmail author


This special issue of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics takes up the question of palliative sedation as a source of potential concern or controversy among Christian clinicians and thinkers. Christianity affirms a duty to relieve unnecessary suffering yet also proscribes euthanasia. Accordingly, the question arises as to whether it is ever morally permissible to render dying patients unconscious in order to relieve their suffering. If so, under what conditions? Is this practice genuinely morally distinguishable from euthanasia? Can one ever aim directly at making a dying person unconscious, or is it only permissible to tolerate unconsciousness as an unintended side effect of treating specific symptoms? What role does the rule of double effect play in making such decisions? Does spiritual or psychological suffering ever justify sedation to unconsciousness? What are the theological and spiritual aspects of such care? This introduction describes how the authors in this special issue wrestle with such questions and shows how each essay relates to the author’s individual position on palliative sedation, as developed in greater detail within his contribution.


End of life Sedation Euthanasia Assisted suicide Double-effect 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Medicine and Philosophy, The Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, Kennedy Institute of EthicsGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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