Commentary on ‘expressivism at the beginning and end of life’

Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (8):548-549 (2020)
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Death can be good— I’ll tell you how. Just have it come Decades from now.1 Full disclosure: The above poem expresses my outlook, and I have trouble empathising with people who want to die. But that does not make me unable to evaluate objections to the expressivist argument against PAS. Reed sets forth the expressivist argument as follows: ‘[W]hen we allow PAS for individuals who are terminally ill or facing some severe disease or disability, we send a message of disrespect to all individuals who face such adversities in that we imply that they are inferior or their lives are not worth living (or at least less worth living than they otherwise would be) precisely insofar as they are diseased or disabled’.2 The passage of mine that Reed quotes, however, was not intended to set forth an expressivist view. Rather than saying the double standard of selective legalisation ‘send[s] a message of disrespect’,3 it says this double standard in fact involves a systematic devaluation of some people’s lives. I will argue that there are conditions under which this double standard does send a message of disrespect, but first I want to disassociate myself from the expressivist formulations of Coleman and Keown that …



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Felicia Ackerman
Brown University

Citations of this work

Explanatory frameworks and managing randomness.Kenneth Boyd - 2020 - Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (8):493-494.

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References found in this work

Expressivism at the beginning and end of life.Philip Reed - 2020 - Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (8):538-544.

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