J Med Ethics 34:655-657 doi:10.1136/jme.2007.021410
  • Ethics

In defence of Kant’s moral prohibition on suicide solely to avoid suffering

  1. G Vong
  1. Mr G Vong, Corpus Christi College, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, Merton Street, Oxford OX1 4JF, UK; gerard.vong{at}
  • Received 29 April 2007
  • Revised 17 September 2007
  • Accepted 19 September 2007


In Ian Brassington’s article in a previous issue of this journal, he argues that suicide for the purpose of avoiding suffering is not, as Kant has contended, contrary to the moral law. Brassington’s objections are not cogent because they rely upon the exegetically incorrect premise that according to Kant the priceless value of personhood is in the noumenal world that we have no perception of. On the basis of Kant’s normative, metaphysical and epistemological theory, I argue, contrary to Brassington, that according to Kant personhood’s moral value is explicitly in the sensible, phenomenal realm. While I argue that suicide solely to avoid suffering is immoral, I show that Kant’s normative system allows some acts of suicide to be morally permissible. In the course of the discussion of the value of humanity’s rationality and the immorality of suicide, I will discuss the broader modern medical ethical implications of Kant’s arguments, such as the moral impermissibility of using rationality depriving drugs, such as ketamine, solely to avoid pain.


  • Competing interests: None.