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Killing people: what Kant could have said about suicide and euthanasia but did not
  1. I Brassington
  1. Correspondence to:
 I Brassington
 School of Law, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK; Iain.Brassington{at}


An agent who takes his own life acts in violation of the moral law, according to Kant; suicide, and, by extension, assisted suicide are therefore wrong. By a similar argument, and with a few important exceptions, killing is wrong; implicitly, then, voluntary euthanasia is also wrong. Kant’s conclusions are uncompelling and his argument in these matters is undermined on considering other areas of his thought. Kant, in forbidding suicide and euthanasia, is conflating respect for persons and respect for people, and assuming that, in killing a person (either oneself or another), we are thereby undermining personhood. But an argument along these lines is faulty according to Kant’s own standards. There is no reason why Kantians have to accept that self-killing and euthanasia are contrary to the moral law. Even if some Kantians adhere to this doctrine, others can reject it.

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  • Competing interests: None.