Last updated on: 7/11/2018 | Author:

Should Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Extended to People Who Are Not Terminally Ill?

PRO (yes)


André Picard, The Globe and Mail columnist, in an Apr. 17, 2017 article, “The Mentally Ill Must Be Part of the Assisted-Dying Debate,” available at, stated

“Should people with mental illness be denied assisted death? (A similar question needs to be asked about those with dementia.)

The simple, straightforward answer is: Of course not. But there is an important proviso: All people who request assisted death should be competent. What that means, practically, is that they have the ability to distinguish right from wrong, to make decisions rationally…

We should not discriminate or deny people rights because it makes us queasy or because of our prejudices… But we’re not talking about granting assisted death to someone who is delusional, or suffering from psychosis or someone who is depressed and treatable. The suffering has to be persistent and painful, though not necessarily imminently lethal.”

Apr. 17, 2017


Jocelyn Downie, MA, MLitt, LLM, SJD, Professor of Law at Dalhousie University, in Jan. 28, 2016 testimony to Canadian Parliament, “Prof. Jocelyn Downie (Professor, Faculties of Law and Medicine, Dalhousie University, as an Individual) at the Physician-Assisted Dying Committee,” available at, stated:

“Terminal illness should not be an inclusion criterion. It was not included by the [Canadian] Supreme Court in Carter [v. Canada]. It is too vague and indeterminate. It is arbitrary and it has no moral justification as a barrier to access…

I would suggest that the best position to take at this time is to require the following: at the time of the request, the patient must have a grievous and irremediable condition and be competent, and at the time of the provision of assistance, the patient must still have a grievous and irremediable condition and be experiencing intolerable suffering by the standards set by the patient at the time or prior to losing capacity.”

Jan. 28, 2016


Felicia Ackerman, PhD, Professor of Philosophy at Brown University, wrote in her chapter “Assisted Suicide, Terminal Illness, Severe Disability, and the Double Standard,” that appeared in the 1998 book Physician Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate:

“Appeals to privacy and autonomy are characteristic of assisted-suicide advocates… But why not apply them to all competent adults? If the issues are really autonomy and privacy, then why legalize suicide assistance only for the terminally ill? Why not grant this right of privacy equally to the young and healthy–the very people our society values most–if they come to decide, for whatever reason, that they do not want to go on living? Such people could doubtless use suicide assistance in the form of prescriptions for lethal drugs, advice about administration, etc. What factors could justify granting this right of privacy only to the terminally ill?”



Gerald Dworkin, PhD, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Davis, wrote in the chapter “Public Policy and Physician-Assisted Suicide,” that appeared in the 1998 book Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide:

Since one does not want to condone all physician-assisted suicides, one needs further criteria… The restriction to cases of terminal illness, while an effective way to draw the line, does not allow relief to many individuals who are suffering but not terminal. Someone with ‘locked-in’ syndrome–totally paralyzed but fully conscious–is an example of this situation.”


CON (no)


Chris Ford, MA, freelance writer and New Zealand’s 2014 Green Party candidate, in a Jan. 25, 2018 article, “Three Changes to Save the Euthanasia Law,” available at, stated:

“For many years, I’ve supported voluntary euthanasia but only for people who have a diagnosis of terminal illness and have less than six months to live. The legislation before Parliament provides for that as a ground for assisted dying. While, if I had a diagnosis like that, I would personally not make that choice, I support having the option of assisted death in place for others who may find themselves in that situation.

What troubles me about the Bill is it also extends the right to apply for euthanasia to people who are deemed to have ‘a grievous or irremediable medical condition’. In my view, this crosses an acceptable boundary for me as a person who otherwise supports assisted dying. The definition is too broad in that it potentially provides the ability for any disabled person who lives with a non-terminal health condition or impairment to apply for euthanasia as well.”

Jan. 25, 2018


Margaret Somerville, LLB, DCL, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Notre Dame Australia, in a Feb. 19, 2016 article, “Next, Limit the Harm: Proposals for Canada’s New Euthanasia Law,” available at, stated:

“I want to put on the record that I believe euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (what the Supreme Court of Canada calls physician-assisted death/dying) are inherently wrong and should remain criminally prohibited.

It seems, however, to be a foregone conclusion that Parliament will legalize euthanasia (a word I use to refer to both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide), so the issue is how to limit the harms and risks of that.

So, in order to do the least damage possible to important shared societal values, especially respect for human life, and to vulnerable Canadians of legalizing euthanasia, I am willing to provide some recommendations for limiting its harms and risks…

Euthanasia should be restricted to people who are terminally ill (a life expectancy of less than four weeks) from a physical illness, disease or disability and experiencing extreme physical suffering.”

Feb. 19, 2016


Compassion and Choices, the largest choice-in-dying organization in the United States, wrote in the “Frequently Asked Questions” portion of their website (accessed on Sep. 19, 2006):

“Suicide is never a good solution to a problem. We believe that only people with terminal conditions that severely impair the quality of life should be able to end their suffering by hastening death.”

Sep. 19, 2006


Erich Loewy, MD, Professor at the University of California at Davis, wrote in the 1998 essay “Harming, Healing and Euthanasia,” that appeared in his book Regulating How We Die:

“I will argue that the time has come for us as a society to consider legitimizing active voluntary euthanasia when it meets the following conditions…it must be under circumstances in which the death of the individual is reasonably felt to be inevitable, shortly at hand, and, above all, in which the time until death is filled with relentless suffering.”