Equality, justice, and paternalism: Recentreing debate about physician-assisted suicide

Journal of Applied Philosophy 23 (4):387–404 (2006)
Debate about physician-assisted suicide has typically focused on the values of autonomy and patient well-being. Margaret Battin, Rosamond Rhodes and Anita Silvers note that both those in favour of legalizing physician-assisted suicide and those who want this activity to be legally prohibited claim these values in support of their case. This is understandable, even reasonable, given the importance of these values in bioethics. However, these are not the only moral values there are. The purpose of this paper is to examine physician-assisted suicide on the basis of the values of equality and justice. In particular, I evaluate two arguments that invoke equality, one in favour of physician-assisted suicide, one against it, and I argue that a convincing equality-based argument in support of physician-assisted suicide is available. I conclude by showing how an equality-based perspective transforms some secondary features of debate about this issue.
Keywords euthanasia  physician-assisted suicide  equality
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