The Case for an Autonomy-Centered View of Physician-Assisted Death


Authors
Eric Mathison
University of Toronto
Jeremy Davis
United States Military Academy
Abstract
Most people who defend physician-assisted death (PAD) endorse the Joint View, which holds that two conditions—autonomy and welfare—must be satisfied for PAD to be justified. In this paper, we defend an Autonomy Only view. We argue that the welfare condition is either otiose on the most plausible account of the autonomy condition, or else is implausibly restrictive, particularly once we account for the broad range of reasons patients cite for desiring PAD, such as “tired of life” cases. Moreover, many of the common objections to an Autonomy Only view fail once we understand the extent of the autonomy condition’s requirements—in particular, the importance of one’s values for autonomous choices. If our view is correct, then the scope of permissible PAD is broader than is currently accepted in both the philosophical literature and the law, and therefore poses an important challenge to this widely accepted view on justified PAD.
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