Autonomy, voluntariness and assisted dying

Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (5):316-319 (2020)
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Ethical arguments about assisted dying often focus on whether or not respect for an individual’s autonomy gives a reason to offer them an assisted death if they want it. In this paper, I present an argument for legalising assisted dying which appeals to the autonomy of people who don’t want to die. Adding that option can transform the nature of someone’s choice set, enabling them to pursue other options voluntarily where that would otherwise be harder or impossible. This does not contradict the more familiar arguments for legalising assisted dying based on the autonomy of those who seek to die. But it does suggest that a wider constituency of support for that legislative change might be created by emphasising that one need not be in that position to be benefited by the change.



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Ben Colburn
University of Glasgow

References found in this work

Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.
The Theory and Practice of Autonomy.Gerald Dworkin - 1988 - Philosophy 64 (250):571-572.
Personal Autonomy and Society.Marina A. L. Oshana - 1998 - Journal of Social Philosophy 29 (1):81-102.

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