Euthanasia and China: The traditional Chinese moral perspective and its social justice implications

Peter Thiam Chai Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This article begins by examining the Chinese relatively liberal stance on suicide. It explains the cultural forces that shaped traditional China’s interpretation of life, death and motifs that validate self-sacrifice. To elucidate the Chinese perspective, the article incorporates extensive comparison with Christian viewpoints. It then addresses “self-regarding” euthanasia cases where death is advanced as a measure to relieve personal affliction. Following this are descriptions of the “other regarding” category, where euthanasia is invoked as an altruistic act to benefit the collective. The article then argues that given China’s beleaguered public health system, there may be moral justification for some to waive their entitlement to life-prolonging treatment as a measure to curb excesses. It ends by contending that accelerating death, even when constricted by these exceptional instances, is not the favoured recourse. This is because the root causes of the current predicament stem from Beijing’s failure to administer equitable care. Instead of pursuing the legitimisation of euthanasia, the stronger ethical response is to reform China’s healthcare system with enhanced resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-61
Number of pages19
JournalAsian Bioethics Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Bioethics
  • China
  • Confucian model
  • Euthanasia
  • Healthcare systems
  • Other regarding
  • Self-regarding

Cite this