Arguments Against Assisted Dying

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The main purpose of this chapter is to identify the arguments in favour and against assisted dying and to set out a framework of safeguards that would accompany any changes in legislation. This chapter will help show how the concerns regarding the legalisation of assisted dying are outweighed by the arguments in favour of a change in legislation.

One of the strongest and most compelling arguments in favour of assisted dying draws on the importance of autonomy and individual liberty; in a liberal state individual freedoms must be respected, “the right to determine what shall be done with one’s own body is a fundamental right in our society” (Tiensuu,2015, p259). In the UK, people generally have the right to make their own decisions about how
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The argument of autonomy and dying in dignity is given prominence by cases such as Diane Pretty and Debbie Purdy, who both argued that “Suffering, indignity, and the loss of independence are undesirable” (Benatar, 2010, p2) and as a result a mentally cognitive individual suffering from chronic illness or terminal illness should be legally allowed to request assisted dying. This ensures that individuals are able to “arrange to die at a chosen time, in privacy and with dignity” (Benatar, 2010, p3).

Diane Pretty suffered from Motor Neuron Disease and was experiencing the disintegration of her body, as a result she appealed to the court to allow her husband to help her end her life, but the request was denied (Doyal, 2001, p1079). Diane’s argument was essentially grounded on the value of autonomy and dignity, the reality of her disease meant she would likely suffer from extreme pain and die an undignified death. The rapid degeneration of her body meant that she would become dependent on those around her for the simplest of tasks. Diane expressed the desire “to have a quick death without suffering, at home surrounded by (her) family” (BBC, 2002). She criticised the European court’s ruling against her case, and believed that this ruling
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The quality of death is an issue that is increasingly being discussed in both academia and public debates (Hendry et al, 2012, p23). In the notion of quality of death, autonomy is seen as very important, as part of a good quality of death is ensuring individual wishes are honoured at the end of their life (Hendry et al, 2012, p23). Quality of death is “the right to choose and desire for autonomy with regard to the manner of death” (Hendry et al, 2012, p19-20). In the systematic review of international literature which looks at people’s attitudes towards assisted dying, a number of surveys were examined and compared (Hendry et al, 2012), and within these surveys four common themes were identified. These included concerns about poor quality of life and desire for a good quality of death (Hendry et al, 2012, p17). Assisted dying is viewed to directly contribute to good quality of death as “by respecting the person’s wishes, alleviating potential suffering and preserving dignity” individuals can ensure that they experience the best possible
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