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When slippery slope arguments miss the mark: a lesson from one against physician-assisted death
  1. Eric Blackstone,
  2. Stuart J Youngner
  1. Bioethics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stuart J Youngner, Department of Bioethics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-4976, USA; sxy2{at}


In 1989, Susan Wolf convincingly warned of a troublesome consequence that should discourage any movement in American society towards physician-assisted death—a legal backlash against the gains made for limiting life-sustaining treatment. The authors demonstrate that this dire consequence did not come to pass. As physician-assisted suicide gains a foothold in USA and elsewhere, many other slippery slope arguments are being put forward. Although many of these speculations should be taken seriously, they do not justify halting the new practice. Instead, our courts, regulatory agencies, journalists, professional organisations and researchers should carefully monitor and study it as it unfolds, allowing continuous improvement just as our society has done in implementing the practice of limiting life-sustaining treatment.

  • prolongation of life and euthanasia
  • care of the dying patient
  • end of life care
  • suicide/assisted suicide

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  • Contributors Both authors were responsible for the conceptual aspects of the paper, the research and the writing.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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