The Dialectic of Autonomy and Beneficence in the Standard Argument for ‘Death with Dignity’
AbstractPhilosophers who defend a person’s right, under certain circumstances, to end his own life or to have a physician end it for him typically appeal both to respect for patient autonomy and to considerations of beneficence. Neither autonomy alone nor beneficence alone can ground a persuasive case for euthanasia. I argue, however, that the standard argument for euthanasia is unsound. It is not possible to combine the principles of autonomy and beneficence in such a way as to justify euthanasia for those who request it and are either incurably ill, in irremediable pain, or fearful of future incapacity, while excluding both involuntary euthanasia and assisted death for those who request it despite being neither incurably ill, in irremediable pain nor fearful of future incapacity.