- Two kinds of physician‐assisted death
- Volume | Issue number
- 31 | 9
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
I argue that the concept ‘physician‐assisted suicide’ covers two procedures that should be distinguished: giving someone access to humane means to end his own life, and taking co‐responsibility for the safe and effective execution of that plan. In the first section I explain the distinction, in the following sections I show why it is important. To begin with I argue that we should expect the laws that permit these two kinds of ‘assistance’ to be different in their justificatory structure. Laws that permit giving access only presuppose that the right to self‐determination implies a right to suicide, but laws that permit doctors to take co‐responsibility may have to appeal to a principle of mercy or beneficence. Actually this difference in justificatory structure can to some extent be found in existing regulatory systems, though far from consistently. Finally I argue that if one recognizes a right to suicide, as Oregon and other American states implicitly do, and as the European Court of Human Rights has recently done explicitly, one is committed to permit the first kind of ‘assistance’ under some conditions.
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