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Autonomy, voluntariness and assisted dying
  1. Ben Colburn
  1. Department of Philosophy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ben Colburn, Department of Philosophy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK; ben.colburn{at}


Ethical arguments about assisted dying often focus on whether or not respect for an individual’s autonomy gives a reason to offer them an assisted death if they want it. In this paper, I present an argument for legalising assisted dying which appeals to the autonomy of people who don’t want to die. Adding that option can transform the nature of someone’s choice set, enabling them to pursue other options voluntarily where that would otherwise be harder or impossible. This does not contradict the more familiar arguments for legalising assisted dying based on the autonomy of those who seek to die. But it does suggest that a wider constituency of support for that legislative change might be created by emphasising that one need not be in that position to be benefited by the change.

  • autonomy
  • euthanasia
  • suicide/assisted suicide

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  • Contributors I am the sole author and contributor.

  • 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 for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.

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