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This interdisciplinary article analyses how citizens debate in an organized public consultation on a deeply conflictual ethical issue: euthanasia. The case in question concerns the Quebec public consultation organized in 2010-2011 by the Special Commission on the Question of Dying with Dignity. The citizen voices debating publicly on euthanasia have so far attracted little attention from researchers. Using Aristotelian rhetorical tools, I analyzed the written submissions (n=149) sent by citizens to the Special Commission. With very few exceptions, all those politically involved in this public consultation, however different they might be, had a high degree of certainty in their ethical beliefs. Everyone acted as if their opponent’s convictions were inferior to their own, which they often presented as universal. With regard to the formula “dying with dignity”, participants implicitly claimed the objectivity of their definition. They even acted as if there were a single definition of the phrase “dying with dignity” and a single ethical truth. Following these analyses, I discuss the concept of “verbal violence” that could be associated with these ways of debating a complex subject.
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