Bioethics Blogs

Debating Physician-Assisted Death (i.e.,Physician-Assisted Suicide)

Among the publications I can’t keep up with is the ASCO post, a tabloid-size, 100+ page newspaper that arrives in my mailbox monthly.  But I do peruse it.  December’s offering included a brief summary of a November 2014 debate regarding whether to “Legalize Assisted Suicide,” by the nonpartisan group Intelligence Squared US Debates.   That is the phrase the group used.  It is commonly pointed out that “suicide” is a pejorative here, in the eyes of advocates of physician-assisted death.  In any event, as regular readers of this blog will recall, whether one calls it “PAS” or “PAD,” I am agin’ it—that is, against active physician assistance, by action or prescription, to effect or intentionally provide the means for someone to terminate his or her own life.  I write here to point out the debate.  I have read the ASCO Post comments but have not had the opportunity to review the entire debate, a task which readers here may choose to do by following the link in this paragraph.

Arguing for PAS/PAD were Princeton’s Peter Singer and Columbia psychology professor Andrew Solomon.  Arguing against were Dr. Daniel Sulmasy (of the U. of Chicago and the Presidential Commission on the Study of Bioethical Issues) and Baroness Ilora Finlay, Professor of Palliative Medicine at the University School of Medicine in Wales, and President of the British Medical Association.

Just a brief couple of comments here, based on how the ASCO Post summarized some of the discussion:  First, Dr. Sulmasy appears to have argued that assisted suicide violates human dignity by making a live somebody into a nobody (a dead person), violating dignity intrinsically, and that to argue that autonomy and liberty underwrite the morality of PAS is somewhat self-contradictory, because death eliminates liberty and so purposefully ending life undermines the liberty that is supposed to support PAS to begin with.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.