Be it resolved: People have the right to choose how and when to die
Play • 47 min

Everyone who enters the medical field does so altruistically, standing steadfast against the ever present threat of death and disease.  But as any doctor knows, there are limits to what they can do. At a certain point, the goal shifts from curative to palliative care.  At this stage, the goal is no longer to save a life, but to relieve suffering as best as possible.  How to do so, and the point at which suffering becomes worse than death, is highly contested.  A growing movement of doctors, nurses, and ethicists argue that patients should be empowered in the face of this impossible choice.  They argue that just as a patient has a right to choose how to live, they should also choose how and when to die.  They argue it is ethically and morally shortsighted to keep suffering patients alive at all costs, and that euthanisia and physician assisted suicide are a mercy, not a crime.  But others in the field argue that life is far too sacred to place in anyone's hands, doctor or patient.  Even on the brink of death, lives have meaning and must be preserved.  They argue that the oath that doctors take forbid them from making these types of decisions regardless of the state of their patient.  And that those that advocate for physician assisted suicide are doing their patience, and themselves, a massive disservice.

Arguing for the motion is Dominic Wilkinson, Dominic Wilkinson is Director of Medical Ethics and Professor of Medical Ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford. He is a consultant in newborn intensive care at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

Arguing against the motion is E. Wesley Ely, American physician and professor of medicine as the Grant W. Liddle Endowed Chair at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Dominic Wilkinson: “It's time to be honest and consistent about end of life choice. People have the right to choose how and when to die”.

Wes Ely: “If you tell me why you ought to respect a patient's autonomy, I'll tell you why you ought not kill that person”.

Sources: CBC, ABC News, CBS Evening News, PBS News Hour

The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.  
Tweet your comments about this episode to @munkdebate or comment on our Facebook page
To sign up for a weekly email reminder for this podcast, send an email to  
To support civil and substantive debate on the big questions of the day, consider becoming a Munk Member at
Members receive access to our 10+ year library of great debates in HD video, a free Munk Debates book, newsletter and ticketing privileges at our live events.

This podcast is a project of the Munk Debates, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to fostering civil and substantive public dialogue -

The Munk Debates podcast is produced by Antica, Canada’s largest private audio production company -
Executive Producer: Stuart Coxe, CEO Antica Productions
Senior Producer: Jacob Lewis
Editor: Reza Dahya
Associate Producer: Abhi Raheja

More episodes
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu