University of Twente Student Theses


Dying with dignity or the death of dignity? Questioning technology in the euthanasia debate through mediation theory

Loup, J.P. (2020) Dying with dignity or the death of dignity? Questioning technology in the euthanasia debate through mediation theory.

[img] PDF
Abstract:What if we learned today that euthanasia had been provided to a patient with a guillotine? Or by means of a firing squad? These would be rather barbaric ways to provide what is often called “dying with dignity”. Yet, if we try to evaluate the situation with our traditional ethical concerns, we may not be able to explain why these “means” would be a problem. Most debaters emphasize that for people dying with dignity, their autonomy should be respected, and their suffering alleviated. If we think about it, these two aspects could be respected if using the means I just outlined. Thus, it seems that technology does have a role to play in euthanasia, it can render it barbaric for instance. Yet, we may struggle to spell out this role. Then, I suggest finding how technology contributes to our moral understanding of euthanasia and ask how the discussion on euthanasia could benefit from taking the ethical role of technology into account? In this thesis, I show that in the current euthanasia discussion, technologies are seen as morally neutral objects, dealt with by independent human subjects. I argue that it is also on this idea that the notion of dignity is built; through treating technologies as objects, we affirm our dignity and we give dignity to others. Yet, my research displays that such understandings of technology may be mistaken. Technology seems to influence our actions, shape our intentions, and constitute our feelings. In sum, humans may never be independent of technology and thus never “dignified” when euthanasia is practiced. From there, I suggest discussing euthanasia as a technologically mediated practice, which can be considered through the lens of Ihde’s postphenomenology and Verbeek’s Mediation Theory. By studying the euthanasia case of Terri Schiavo, I show how pieces of technology “mediated” each stakeholder in a very particular way and influenced their moral understanding of the situation. I conclude that taking technology into account offers a better structure to discuss euthanasia, and displays how we can participate in the discussion by shaping technological mediations. Finally, I suggest that the moral influence of technology does not necessarily entail the complete death of the notion of dignity. It may simply mean that debaters need to find new ways of valuing, respecting, and holding humans responsible through technology rather than in opposition to technology.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:08 philosophy
Programme:Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society MSc (60024)
Link to this item:
Export this item as:BibTeX
HTML Citation
Reference Manager


Repository Staff Only: item control page