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Reed on expressivism at the end of life: a bridge too far
  1. Janet Malek
  1. Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Janet Malek, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA; janet.malek{at}

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In his thought-provoking piece, ‘Expressivism at the Beginning and End of Life’, Philip Reed contrasts the application of the expressivist objection to the use of reproductive technologies (such as prenatal testing and preimplantation diagnosis) with its application to interventions that bring about death (such as physician aid in dying and euthanasia). In the process of supporting his comparative conclusion, that ‘expressivism at the end of life is a much greater concern than at the beginning’, he makes some interesting observations and offers some convincing arguments. Further examination, however, shows that his arguments actually support conclusions far beyond the modest one he intends to draw. The absurdity of these conclusions can be used to identify the flaws in Reed’s argument.

Reed summarises the expressivist objection in the context of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as follows:

When 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.

Analogous arguments have been made about decisions to use reproductive technology to prevent the birth of people with disabilities. Reed describes a common rebuttal to the …

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  • Contributors I am the sole author of this commentary and am entirely responsible for its content.

  • 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; internally peer reviewed.

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