Libertarianism, Self-Ownership and Consensual Killing
Under what conditions is it morally permissible to commit suicide, to assist in someone’s suicide, or to kill another person with his/her consent? Under what conditions is it morally permissible to use force to prevent such acts? I shall defend a libertarian answer to these questions. On this view, autonomous agents initially fully own themselves in the same sense that one can fully own an inanimate object such as a car. Just as full owners of cars are morally permitted, under a broad range of conditions, to destroy their cars or have someone else do so, autonomous agents who fully own themselves are permitted, under a broad range of conditions, to terminate their lives or to have someone else do so. Furthermore, under these conditions, other agents are not permitted to use force to prevent a full self-owner’s consensual death. I shall focus on consensual killing (i.e., with the killed person’s consent) of autonomous agents. This includes suicide, assisting with suicide, voluntary euthanasia, and even cases where a non-sick person requests that another kill her. I shall not address cases of killing that are involuntary (against the will of the person killed) or non-voluntary (where the being killed is not autonomous; e.g., killing animals, children, and incapacitated adults). These are important issues, but they cannot be addressed here.
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