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Commentary on ‘expressivism at the beginning and end of life’
  1. Felicia Nimue Ackerman
  1. Department of Philosophy, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Felicia Nimue Ackerman, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA; felicia_ackerman{at}

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Death can be good—

I’ll tell you how.

Just have it come

Decades from now.1

Full disclosure: The above poem expresses my outlook, and I have trouble empathising with people who want to die. But that does not make me unable to evaluate objections to the expressivist argument against PAS. Reed sets forth the expressivist argument as follows: ‘[W]hen we allow PAS for individuals who are terminally ill or facing some severe disease or disability, we send a message of disrespect to all individuals who face such adversities in that we imply that they are inferior or their lives are not worth living (or at least less worth living than they otherwise would be) precisely insofar as they are diseased or disabled’.2

The passage of mine that Reed quotes, however, was not intended to set forth an expressivist view. Rather than saying the double standard of selective legalisation ‘send[s] a message of disrespect’,3 it says this double standard in fact involves a systematic devaluation of some people’s lives. I will argue that there are conditions under which this double standard does send a message of disrespect, but first I want to disassociate myself from the expressivist formulations of Coleman and Keown that …

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  • Funding The author has 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 Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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