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Reasons for providing assisted suicide and the expressivist objection: a response to Donaldson
  1. Esther Braun1,2
  1. 1Institute for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
  2. 2Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Esther Braun, Institute for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany; esther.braun{at}


According to the expressivist objection, laws that only allow assisted dying for those suffering from certain medical conditions express the judgement that their lives are not worth living. I have recently argued that an autonomy-based approach that legally allows assisted suicide for all who make an autonomous request is a way to avoid the expressivist objection. In response to this, Thomas Donaldson has argued that rather than avoiding the expressivist objection, an autonomy-based approach extends this objection. According to Donaldson, this is because helping a person achieve a goal requires endorsement of that goal. In this reply, I show that Donaldson misunderstands the target of the expressivist objection: it is not aimed at an individual’s attitude towards another person’s death but rather at a legal regulation. Moreover, helping someone end their life does not necessarily require endorsing this goal—instead, respect for a person’s autonomous choice can be another reason for providing assisted suicide. Donaldson also assumes that the autonomy-based approach requires doctors to accept autonomous requests for assisted dying. Yet, this approach merely makes it legal for individuals (not necessarily only doctors) to provide assisted suicide to autonomous persons but does not require anyone to do so.

  • euthanasia
  • ethics- medical
  • legislation
  • personal autonomy
  • right to die

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  • Contributors EB is the sole author and contributor.

  • 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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