Against Recategorizing Physician-Assisted Suicide

Public Affairs Quarterly 34 (1):50-71 (2020)

Philip Reed
Canisius College
There is a growing trend among some physicians, psychiatrists, bioethicists, and other mental health professionals not to treat physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as suicide. The grounds for doing so are that PAS fundamentally differs from other suicides. Perhaps most notably, in 2017 the American Association of Suicidology argued that PAS is distinct from the behavior that their organization seeks to prevent. This paper compares and contrasts suicide and PAS in order to see how much overlap there is. Contrary to the emerging view that emphasizes their differences, I argue that there is significant overlap such that we ought not to separate PAS into its own category, making it diverge from how we think about and address suicide more generally. I start by examining several prominent theories of suicide and argue that PAS fits squarely within them. I then examine several apparent differences between PAS and other kinds of suicide and argue that these differences are merely apparent or they do not justify treating PAS as a fundamentally different kind of thing from suicide.
Keywords Suicide  Physician-Assisted Suicide  Terminal Illness  Aid in Dying  Euthanasia
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