Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice

Should it be legal to assist suicide?

Journal Article


This paper argues that because it is a matter of dispute whether to assist suicide is ever morally right, the question whether assisted suicide should be legal should be decided independently of the moral issue and with reference to whether to assist suicide is genuinely to carry out the wishes of the person requesting it. It is then argued that it is possible to devise a set of criteria, based on those used in the Netherlands with regard to euthanasia, which would allow assisted suicide when the request is reasonable and genuine, but keep it illegal under other circumstances. It is further argued that there is no evidence that legalizing assisted suicide will lead us down the slippery slope to involuntary euthanasia. Finally, the question is raised to whether these assisted suicides should be legalized or, as at the moment in the UK, simply not prosecuted, but, as is about to happen, with the criteria for non‐prosecution made explicit. It is suggested that, although it is in some ways both irrational and unjust, non‐prosecution is politically easier to achieve and also more cautious as a first move.

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