Arguments for and against physician assisted dying

Here are some of my least and most favorite arguments for and against physician assisted dying, currently being debated by the Canadian Supreme Court. I won’t even bother identifying which quotes I find persuasive and which are nonsense. You can also read my previous article on “Preparing for physician assisted dying”.

Arguments against

Harvey Max Chochinov and Balfour M. Mount:

“It would also appear that autonomy is intoxicating; the more people have, the more it becomes a cultural norm and a perceived entitlement.”

Nicholas Steenhout, director general of Living with Dignity:

“It’s a huge shock to the system to receive a terminal diagnosis and it’s actually quite well known that people go into a depression. At that point it’s basically not really possible to make clear and informed consent.”

Margaret Somerville:

“People are afraid to accept palliative care or necessary pain management because they fear euthanasia. We must be able to reassure them that we will kill their pain, but never intentionally kill them and we can’t do that if euthanasia or assisted suicide are legalized.”


Arguments for

Arthur Shafer:

“When an important life choice concerns a private matter and when the individual making that choice is near death and suffering unrelievably then the state should not interfere unless it can prove that interference is necessary to protect vulnerable third parties.”

James Downar:

“My support for PAD is based on an ethic of care, therefore, and the desire to help people achieve the death that they want. I’m not advocating for universal PAD, but universal choice.”

Wanda Morris:

“We do not believe those who speak against legalizing assisted dying are pro-suffering. In supporting a total ban on assisted dying they see life as sacrosanct and are willing to accept that some suffering must inevitably occur as a result. Our priorities differ: at Dying With Dignity Canada, we believe compassion should trump the preservation of life at all cost.”

Andre Picard:

“Choosing to die is not an easy decision, and few people will make that choice; all told, perhaps a couple of hundred each year in a country where there are a quarter of a million annual deaths. But having that choice – that right – should be a given in a democratic society.”

Philip Hebert:

“Serious illness can be a soul-destroying process and it is right to expect that the medical profession consider a request for death from a patient carefully and thoroughly.”

Ken Walker aka Dr. Gifford-Jones:

“I have no problem with those who, for religious, moral or ethical reasons, are opposed to assisted death. They have my blessing to suffer the agonies of painful death as long as they like. But they have no inborn right to say the rest of us are morally corrupt in deciding this is senseless torture.”



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