When the Dying Person Looks Me in the Face: An Ethics of Responsibility for Dealing With the Problem of the Patient in a Persistent Vegetative State

  • Paul Schotsmans
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 41)


With the advance of medical technology the process of dying is often transferred to institutional settings. The purpose of my reflections is to present a Catholic, ethical framework for the care of the dying as an interhuman event. This anthropological-personalist approach implies that love, which forms the core of a Christian inspired, personalistic ethic, is not an accidental nor arbitrary invention of a particular religious revelation. On the contrary, love is rooted in the “nature” or createdness of humanity itself. The ethical task to love one’s neighbor is our very essence. I can only dedicate myself actively and consciously to my fellow human beings and to the world because I am structured, according to my essence itself, as a “being-for-the-other-than-myself” (Burggraeve, 1988). Since the Enlightenment we have grown accustomed to placing autonomy at the center of ethical reflection. Relational philosophy, was (and is) considered as being irrational, dogmatically alienating, or contrary to emancipation. Autonomy does, however, not have the first nor the last word but it exists thanks to “creatural” solidarity and is a necessary condition for the fulfillment of this solidarity in a Christian perspective. In the relational approach of the human person,person is decentralized without being alienated, as opposed to the Western notion of autonomy which automatically connects relational responsibility and alienation.


Human Person Double Effect Persistent Vegetative State Biological Life Active Euthanasia 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

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  • Paul Schotsmans

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