Thomson, Judith Jarvis. Physician-Assisted Suicide: Two Moral Arguments
1999, Ethics 109 (3):497-518.
Added by: Simon Fokt
Introduction: What I will discuss are two of the moral arguments that have been put forward as reasons for objecting to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. They have been taken seriously by a great many people and have had a powerful impact on the state of American law in this area. I will argue that they are bad arguments. I should say at the outset, however, that even if these are bad arguments, there may be others that are better. Many people oppose the legalizing of physician-assisted suicide on the ground that (as they think) there is no way of constraining the practice so as to provide adequate protections for the poor and the weak. They may be right, and if they are, then all bets are off. Alternatively, they may be wrong. I will simply bypass this issue.
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Comment: The two arguments focus on the distinction between killing and letting die, and the doctrine of double effect. The arguments offered are central to the discussion on the moral permissibility of euthanasia and assisted suicide, which makes this text very useful in teaching applied ethics. It can be also useful in more general teaching on the doctrine of double effect.