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The Concept Of Duty To Live

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Survival is a tactic we try to put up with each day despite the circumstances that pin us far from it. However, instances arise where living causes more burdens than we anticipate (Cholbi, 2010). John Hardwig points out that in such a case, then a person’s duty to die prevails.

Hardwig’s Central argument

In his theory, Hardwig believes that humans have to die. For instance, in cases of extreme illnesses, people ought to make choices that favour the loved ones (Hardwig, 2014). Despite objections from bioethics and religious ethics, the condition still stands out as a possible option. He comprehensively outlines circumstances under which individuals have to die. Firstly, a commitment to end one’s life prevails when continual to live causes more burdens, whether emotionally, financially, or destructing life plans (Hardwig, 2014). Fairness is a virtue when faced with such a case. There is a need to consider the long term effect our burden will have on our loved ones rather than being selfish.

Secondly, duties to die exist when the lives of our loved ones have impoverished for a long time, especially when it is not their fault. In some cases, caregiving becomes complicated to our supporters, especially when they alternate with other demands like jobs and family (Hardwig, 2014). It becomes expensive for them to serve all sides, thus, leading to loss and extreme problems (Cholbi, 2010). Moreover, a duty to die is significant where your loved ones have made tremendous contributions for one’s sake, but you have made no similar sacrifice for their well-being.

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Additionally, when people live lavish lifestyles instead of saving for illness or old age and later depend on family for sustenance then, they must die. According to reports from research, middle-level Americans spend more and save less (Hardwig, 2014). It is ultimately wrong to depend on your family’s assistance after living a careless spendthrift life.

However, Hardwig argues that in some cases, there is no duty to die, especially when one is incompetent. Ideally, such a decision is arrived at by the victim wherein the occurrence of incompetence; the person does not recognize such a duty (Hardwig, 2014). Likewise, when people can still contribute significantly to a family, then a possibility to die is rare.


I agree with Hardwig’s idea that a duty to die prevails. It is necessary to ensure fairness in the choices we make, especially how they impact those close to us. In cases of chronic illnesses that require extreme financial support which is unaffordable, then such a measure should be considered.


  1. Cholbi, M. (2010). The duty to die and the burdensomeness of living. Bioethics, 24(8), 412-420.
  2. Hardwig, J. (Ed.). (2014). Is there a duty to die?: And other essays in bioethics. Routledge.
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The Concept Of Duty To Live. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“The Concept Of Duty To Live.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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