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Assisted dying programmes are not discriminatory against the dying
  1. Ben Sarbey
  1. Philosophy, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Ben Sarbey, Philosophy, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA; ben.sarbey{at}

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Some jurisdictions that allow assisted dying require participating patients to have a terminal illness. This includes all Australian and US states where assisted dying is allowed.1 Philip Reed2 argues that this requirement constitutes discrimination against the dying. As Reed2 argues: ‘assisted death laws that limit their services to the dying discriminate against them because death is offered to them to solve their problems’. This discrimination could take two forms: (1) via harm to dying patients as a group as a result of the existence of assisted dying programmes; (2) via a negative message that such programmes communicate about whether the lives of dying patients are worth living. Assisted dying programmes are not unjustly discriminatory in either sense so long as we assume that unjust discrimination requires harm to the group in question.

If assisted dying singles out the terminally ill for a programme which ends up harming them as a group, then it is unjustly discriminatory against them. Reed relies on Velleman’s argument that assisted dying harms patients by giving them a coercive option. In …

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  • Contributors BS is the sole author.

  • 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.

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

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