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Giving the terminally ill access to euthanasia is not discriminatory: a response to Reed
  1. Jordan MacKenzie
  1. Philosophy, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jordan MacKenzie, Philosophy, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA; jmackenzie{at}

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Philip Reed argues that laws that grant people access to euthanasia on the basis of terminal illness are discriminatory. In support of this claim, he offers an argument by analogy: it would be discriminatory to offer a person access to euthanasia because they are women or because they are disabled, as such restricted access would send the message ‘that life as a woman or as a disabled person is (very often) not worth living’.1 And so it must also be discriminatory to offer people access to euthanasia because they are terminally ill.

Arguments by analogies are only as good as the analogies on which they are built. Having a terminal illness, I’m going to suggest, is not relevantly similar enough to either being disabled or being a member of an oppressed social group to make Reed’s claim compelling.

Let’s explore each branch of the analogy in turn. Why think that terminal illness is relevantly unlike disability, in a way that makes offering access to euthanasia in the latter case discriminatory, but not the former? For one thing, terminal illness is necessarily time-limited. When my father was dying, he found himself in constant …

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  • Contributors JM 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.

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

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