Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Is the exclusion of psychiatric patients from access to physician-assisted suicide discriminatory?
  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}monash.edu

Abstract

Advocates of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) often argue that, although the provision of PAS is morally permissible for persons with terminal, somatic illnesses, it is impermissible for patients suffering from psychiatric conditions. This claim is justified on the basis that psychiatric illnesses have certain morally relevant characteristics and/or implications that distinguish them from their somatic counterparts. In this paper, I address three arguments of this sort. First, that psychiatric conditions compromise a person’s decision-making capacity. Second, that we cannot have sufficient certainty that a person’s psychiatric condition is untreatable. Third, that the institutionalisation of PAS for mental illnesses presents morally unacceptable risks. I argue that, if we accept that PAS is permissible for patients with somatic conditions, then none of these three arguments are strong enough to demonstrate that the exclusion of psychiatric patients from access to PAS is justifiable.

  • psychiatry
  • competence/incompetence
  • suicide/assisted suicide
  • ethics
  • clinical ethics
View Full Text

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Footnotes

  • Contributors JJH is the sole author of this work.

  • 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 Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.