An examination of Aristotle's concept of eudaemonia in consideration of its potential for use in the life support decision-making process in terminal illness
Recent developments in life-support technology have made possible choices unknown a brief generation ago. These choices have raised ethical questions regarding the value and meaning of a human life that have eluded simple answers. The field of bioethics has attempted to deal with life-support and other similar issues through the use of principles to guide decision-making. Autonomy and beneficence have been utilized as appropriate principles in addressing life-support issues. However, it is shown that little guidance can be obtained from these principles alone, for there is no manner of prioritizing them, and their formality impedes application in specific circumstances. To resolve these difficulties, the need for a theory of human nature is presented. Aristotle's theory is selected as it is related to the values underlying the chosen principles of autonomy and beneficence, is capable of resolving the difficulty in applying them, and is both universal and flexible in permitting adaptation to specific situations. Three case studies with very different circumstances demonstrate the use of an assessment structure developed from Aristotle's theory. These demonstrate the adaptability and flexibility of the assessment structure that is developed. Suggestions are given for optimal use of the assessment.