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Proponents commonly justify the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in terms of a patient's wanting to die (autonomy) and the patient's having a medically established good reason for suicide. These are the common elements of the standard justification offered for the legalization of PAS. In what follows, I argue that these two conditions exist in significant tension with one another, operating according to distinct dynamics that render the justification for PAS an unstable “let it be so” basis for public policy. Moreover, no natural connection keeps these two criteria united. Indeed—as I argue—the two elements of the justification oppose and threaten to exclude one another. Thus, the PAS justification is too labile a basis for sound public policy.


Article published in Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, Vol. 10, Number 1, Winter 2001, pp. 103-109.

Copyright 2001 by Cambridge University Press

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