Should Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide Only Be Allowed for the Terminally Ill?

PRO (yes)

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 - Compassion & Choices 

The Oregon Department of Human Services gave a brief history of the Death with Dignity Act in their Mar. 2006 Eighth Annual Report on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act:

"The Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill Oregon residents to obtain and use prescriptions from their physicians for self-administered, lethal medications...

To request a prescription for lethal medications, the Death with Dignity Act requires that a patient must be... diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months."

Mar. 2006 - Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) 

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 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."

1998 - Erich Loewy, MD 

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in its entry, "Voluntary Euthanasia," last updated April 25, 2006, stated that:

"Five Individually Necessary Conditions for Candidacy for Voluntary Euthanasia:

Advocates of voluntary euthanasia contend that if a person

(a) is suffering from a terminal illness;

(b) is unlikely to benefit from the discovery of a cure for that illness during what remains of her life expectancy;

(c) is, as a direct result of the illness, either suffering intolerable pain, or only has available a life that is unacceptably burdensome (because the illness has to be treated in ways that lead to her being unacceptably dependent on others or on technological means of life support);

(e) is unable without assistance to commit suicide,

then there should be legal and medical provision to enable her to be allowed to die or assisted to die.

It should be acknowledged that these conditions are quite restrictive, indeed more restrictive than some would think appropriate. In particular, the conditions concern access to voluntary euthanasia only for those who are terminally ill. While that expression is not free of all ambiguity, for present purposes it can be agreed that it does not include the bringing about of the death of, say, victims of accidents who are rendered quadriplegic or victims of early Alzheimer's Disease."

Apr. 25, 2006 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

CON (no)

Philip Nitschke, MD, Director and Founder of Exit International, an Australian voluntary euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide organization, stated in a June 5, 2001 interview with the National Review:

"If we are to remain consistent and we believe that the individual has the right to dispose of their life, we should not erect artificial barriers in the way of sub-groups who don't meet our criteria.

This would mean that the so-called 'peaceful pill' should be available in the supermarket so that those old enough to understand death could obtain death peacefully at the time of their choosing...

Any position other than this leads to considerable debate about where exactly the cut-off point should be. All the legislative models in existence (Oregon, the Netherlands, and the past law in the Northern Territory of Australia) have attempted to do just that--define this eligible sub-group — i.e., terminally ill, not depressed, over 18, articulate, and lucid, etc., etc., and laws that attempt to do this produce a great deal of confusion in the gray areas of the cut-off. What about psychic suffering from mental illness? What about teenagers with terminal cancer; why should they have to wait till they're 18? What about the 95-year-old who is 'tired of life' but not clinically depressed?"

June 5, 2001 - Philip Nitschke, PhD, MBBS 

Ludwig Minelli, founder of Dignitas, a Swiss suicide clinic, stated in an Apr. 16, 2006 interview with the Times of London:

"The idea of a terminal illness as a condition for assisted suicide is a British obsession...

We never say no. Even those suffering from Alzheimer's will have lucid moments in which they may choose to die...

We would never assist the death of someone with acute depression... But if somebody comes after 10 or 12 years of depression and says they do not want to prolong their life under such conditions, then we might help them to die...

We should not start from the premise that suicide should not happen. "

Apr. 16, 2006 - Ludwig A. Minelli, LLM 

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."

1998 - Gerald Dworkin, PhD 

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?"

1998 - Felicia Nimue Ackerman, PhD