We intend to argue that, under certain circumstances, it is morally permissible, and ought to be legally permissible, for physicians to provide the knowledge and/or means by which a patient can take her own life. This facilitation of suicide is what we shall mean by physician-assisted suicide. When we refer to euthanasia we shall mean cases in which the physician performs the last causal step leading to the death of the patient, and thus can be said to kill the patient.
The reasons for favoring physician-assisted suicide are not difficult to determine. They consist mainly of the interests that dying patients have in the process of dying being as painless and dignified as possible. They also rely on the interest of patients in determining the time and manner of their death. Autonomy and relief of suffering are values that we all can agree to be important. But it has seemed to many people that, important as these values are, there are significant objections to allowing physicians to serve these values either by facilitating suicide or by killing their patients. We believe that these objections are mistaken and that once they are seen to be mistaken, the reasons favoring medically assisted dying lead to our conclusions.
Our basic strategy of argument is essentially ad hominem; that is, we will claim that those who oppose medically assisted dying themselves favor policies that cannot be morally distinguished from the policies we favor and they oppose.
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