Euthanasia Laws, Slippery Slopes, and (Un)reasonable Precaution

Prolegomena: Časopis Za Filozofiju 18 (2):121-147 (2019)
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Abstract

The article examines the so-called slippery slope argument (SSA) against the legalization of active voluntary euthanasia (AVE). According to the SSA, by legalizing AVE, the least morally controversial type of euthanasia, we will take the first step onto a slippery slope and inevitably end up in the moral abyss of widespread abuse and violations of the rights of the weakest and most vulnerable patients. In the first part of the paper, empirical evidence to the contrary is presented and analyzed: None of the forecast regrettable trends can be elicited from the body of existing statistical data. Accordingly, we have no good reason to believe either that we already are, or are sooner or later going to be, sliding into a moral abyss. A related question is then considered: Would it not be wiser and safer to stick to the status quo and preserve the existing legal ban on AVE even if the risk of its abuse is uncertain and may well turn out to be relatively low? It is argued that such an appeal to precautionary reasoning fails to justify an outright legal ban on AVE for at least two reasons: (i) it grossly underestimates the hidden moral costs of current legal arrangements (competent terminal patients suffer both disrespect for their autonomous will and deprivation of the good of a timely death) and (ii) the ban is both too inefficient and disproportionate to qualify as a reasonable measure of precaution.

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Friderik Klampfer
University of Maribor

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