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Medical assistance in dying for the psychiatrically ill reply to Buturovic
  1. Joshua James Hatherley
  1. School of Historical, Philosophical, and International Studies, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Joshua James Hatherley, School of Historical, Philosophical, and International Studies, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia; joshua.hatherley{at}

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In a recent Response published in the Journal of Medical Ethics,1 Buturovic provides two criticisms of my argument in ‘Is the exclusion of psychiatric patients from access to physician-assisted suicide discriminatory?’2 First, Buturovic argues that my argument effectively ‘erases the distinction between healthy adults and patients (whether somatic or psychiatric) essentially implying that PAS [physician-assisted suicide] should be available to all, for all reasons or, ultimately no reason’ (Buturovic,1 pg. 1). Second, Buturovic argues that opening the doors to medical assistance in dying (MAID) for psychiatric patients could have a number of undesirable implications. In particular, Buturovic highlights the potential negative implications for relations of trust in medicine—psychiatry in particular—along with potential effects on the rate of organ donation. I would here like to respond to these two criticisms.

In short, my response to Buturovic’s first argument is that the slope is not nearly as slippery as Buturovic suggests. The reason for this is that the plausibility of Buturovic’s argument rests on a significant misinterpretation of my argument, along with an important equivocation in her own.

Buturovic argues that, under the three criteria that I propose for the provision of MAID—sufficient decision-making capacity, demonstrated treatment resistance, and a lack of substantially negative implications for existing standards of psychiatric treatment and research—the provision of MAID for trivial reasons, even no reason at all, is justifiable. The main problem with this argument is that I propose no such positive criteria. My argument is that none of the three arguments addressed in my previous paper are sufficient to justify the exclusion of any and all psychiatric patients from access to MAID. I do not claim, in other words, that any individual …

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  • Contributors JJH is the sole author.

  • 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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