Physician-Assisted Suicide: Improving the Debate

By John Keown

John Keown

John Keown

The Washington Post reported on Valentine’s day that since the death of her husband, Diane Rehm, the NPR talk show host, is emerging as a “key force” in the “right to die” debate. The Post relates that she is addressing fundraising dinners for “Compassion and Choices,” a pro-PAS pressure-group. The Post quotes her as saying:

As strongly as I feel, I don’t want to use the program to proselytize my feelings … But I do want to have more and more discussion about it because I feel it’s so important.

She is right. It is important. And it is worthy of more discussion, not least because more discussion, if fair and balanced, allows opponents of PAS to refute the superficially attractive arguments of pressure-groups like “Compassion and Choices”—arguments that have, with very few exceptions, been rejected by legislatures, expert committees, courts, professional healthcare associations, and disability groups around the world.

What are the main arguments for changing the law to allow doctors, at the patient’s request, to write a lethal prescription (PAS) or to administer a lethal injection (voluntary, active euthanasia, or VAE)? In Debating Euthanasia, a book in which I debate a leading advocate of PAS and VAE, I considered ten arguments for relaxing the law. To illustrate their weakness, let us consider just three of the most popular arguments.

Link to the full article.