Is “aid in dying” suicide?
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The practice whereby terminally ill patients choose to end their own lives painlessly by ingesting a drug prescribed by a physician has commonly been referred to as physician-assisted suicide. There is, however, a strong trend forming that seeks to deny that this act should properly be termed suicide. The purpose of this paper is to examine and reject the view that the term suicide should be abandoned in reference to what has been called physician-assisted suicide. I argue that there are no good conceptual or philosophical reasons to avoid the suicide label. I contend that intending one’s death is essential to the nature of suicide, and this intention is normally required on the part of the terminally ill patient when she knowingly takes a life-ending drug. Additionally, the analysis shows that any plausible strategy that avoids the term suicide is counteracted by the way in which advocates of the practice want to make it legal.
KeywordsSuicide Physician-assisted suicide Coercion Intention
I presented an earlier version of this paper at The Romanell Center for Clinical Ethics and the Philosophy of Medicine Conference, University at Buffalo, July 2016; the Catholic University of America, February 2017; and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities Annual Conference, Anaheim, CA, October 2018. I’m grateful to the audiences on those occasions for helpful feedback, especially to David Hershenov, Stephen Kershnar, Neil Feit, Jim Delaney, Travis Timmerman, and Eric Mathison. I also thank several anonymous referees for their instructive comments on previous drafts.
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