Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Cue Card Libertarianism - Euthanasia

Euthanasia: The assisted termination of one’s life at one’s own request.

In 2006 it should not be necessary to have to point out that the word 'voluntary' should be prefixed to the word 'euthanasia' -- that is, that the choice to end one's own life is only one's own to make or to assign, and must be voluntary and uncoerced -- nor should it be necessary to argue that when people find themselves facing the prospect of unendurable suffering and they wish to end their own lives but are incapable of doing so unaided, that they be able to call upon someone to help them. It shouldn't be necessary but it is, as Lesley Martin, Jack Kevorkian and others convicted of helping people in that tragic situation can attest.

Currently, by law, anyone who provides such help is deemed a criminal, and can be charged with outright murder, or aiding and abetting a suicide. This is an affront to individual autonomy, which presupposes not only the right to live as one chooses, but also the right to die as one chooses – even if one is not ill and not in pain. A libertarian New Freeland would uphold the right to kill oneself and to be assisted to do so, and would ensure a mechanism was in place to secure the rights of those who do wish to end their lives, and the legal protection of those who are asked to assist them.

This stance, however, is by no means to be taken as endorsement of mercy killing without the consent of the party whose life is to be terminated – that is a much more complex question and one much argued about among libertarians as much as others, and not one that can be properly addressed in this 'cue-card' format.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series as it develops can be found here.


  1. Therefore, could physician assisted suicide be regarded as more libertarian, as a doctor prescribes a potentially fatal dosage of pills, which the terminally ill person is then at liberty to consume or not, leaving the time of their eventual death to their own autonomous discretion,
    instead of waiting until they're incapacited?

    I gather some Objectivists would argue that.
    Craig Y.

  2. Sorry Craig, I'm not with you. "More libertarian" than what, exactly?


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