Menu Skip to Menu

Euphemising euthanasia (Part 1)


Bioethicist Margaret Somerville discusses how we talk about life, death and dignity.


Euphemising euthanasia (Part 2)


Bioethicist Margaret Somerville discusses how we talk about life, death and dignity.

Do we – or should we – have the right to choose when and how we die?

Margaret Somerville is originally from Australia but works in Canada as a bioethicist at McGill University. She’s sympathetic to those who see euthanasia as a way of easing suffering – but also strongly disagrees with them. Simon Smart talks to Professor Somerville about what’s happening with euthanasia around the world, why the language we use about it is so important, and why she feels that there’s more to us as humans than we can fully understand.


Euphemising euthanasia

00:47 Now we’ve all known people who have suffered at the end of life. It’s not hard to see why people are attracted to the idea of euthanasia, is it?

02:44 You say the language we use in this topic is critical in understanding it?

04:05 This question around freedom to choose seems to be an ultimate good now in our society. Do you think that’s what’s lying beneath this discussion?

05:05 What’s lost, then, when we’ve moved away from that weekly engagement with a kind of community and a story that’s bigger than ourselves?


Tired of Life

00:08 You seem to think though that this is a very special issue for our society. Why is that? Why can’t people just let this one go, because it’s just letting old people who are suffering die?

02:35 So it’s a slippery slope that has some realities that we’re seeing played out already – and so it’s not just your morbid thinking?


The Mystery of Life and Death

00:24 What sort of society do we want to become seems to be an important question for you in this?

01:26 You’ve also written that we need to be able to talk about euthanasia and embed it in a moral context without resorting to religious talk. Why is that, and is it even possible to do it?