The terminal, the futile, and the psychiatrically disordered

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The various jurisdictions worldwide that now legally permit assisted suicide (or voluntary euthanasia) vary concerning the medical conditions needed to be legally eligible for assisted suicide. Some jurisdictions require that an individual be suffering from an unbearable and futile medical condition that cannot be alleviated. Others require that individuals must be suffering from a terminal illness that will result in death within a specified timeframe, such as six months.

Popular and academic discourse about assisted suicide paradigmatically focuses on individuals with ‘physical,’ i.e., non-psychiatric medical conditions, such as cancer or AIDS. Here I defend analyses of the notions of unbearable suffering, futility, and terminality that imply that, regardless of which of these medical conditions is invoked, at least some individuals with severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses satisfy these conditions and ought to be classified as legally eligible for assisted suicide. The legal and moral case for a right to assisted suicide is therefore not in principle weaker for the severely psychiatrically disordered than for those with ‘typical’ terminal or futile medical conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-505
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Issue number5-6
Early online date11 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • assisted suicide
  • end-of-life decisions
  • mental disorder
  • terminal illness
  • medical futility


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