Peterson - Euthanasia, Human and Other

Additional Information

Category Lecture
Speakers Peterson, Anna
Year 2015

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The conference description poses a number of interesting and difficult questions regarding the implications of species difference for religion and ethics. My paper will address, at least indirectly, three of these: whether our distinctive biology has enabled humans to escape our biology; how the question of species changes our understanding of religion; and the nature of the difference between human and non‐human animal in degree or in kind. I reflect on these problems through the lens of a particular moral issue: euthanasia, or “mercy killing,” of humans and nonhuman animals. While human euthanasia (along with assisted suicide) is a major topic within bioethics, much less has been written about the ethics of euthanizing other species, and almost no scholarly works make any comparison between them. My paper first outlines the ways euthanasia is defined and the moral issues that arise in both cases. I then offer a comparison, which asks what difference species makes in moral evaluations and practical decisions regarding who lives and dies. I engage both religious and secular ethical traditions in order to develop the comparison and also to ask broader questions regarding the ways relationships, practices, and institutional location shape our evaluations of the meaning of species, the value of life, and the moral options that are available.

ANNA PETERSON IS a native Californian and received her AB from the University of California at Berkeley and PhD from the University of Chicago. She teaches in the Religion Department at the University of Florida. Her main areas of research and teaching interests include social, environmental, and animal ethics and also the relations between religion and politics, especially in Latin America. Her most recent book is Being Animal: Beasts and Boundaries in Nature Ethics (2013), which looks at the treatment of nonhuman animals in environmental ethics. Some of her other books include Everyday Ethics and Social Change (2009), Seeds of the Kingdom (2005), and Being Human (2001). At present she is working on two new projects: one on the place of practice in ethical theory and the other on the ethics and politics of companion animal rescue.