The Illegality of Assisted Suicide

Let’s say assisted suicide is illegal because it’s often a tragic, premature, perhaps even ill-informed, death. But so is unassisted suicide.

And there are alternatives to assisted suicide – better pain management, for example, or counselling. Same goes for unassisted suicide.

Assisted suicide violates our social values, our respect for life. Yeah, well. And yet unassisted suicide is legal because ‘It’s your life’.

So it seems it’s the assistance that’s the problem, perhaps because involving someone else opens the door to possible abuse, to coercion. But unassisted suicide can also be ‘coerced’: ‘If you don’t kill yourself, I will’. And really, allowing unassisted suicide already puts us on a slippery slope. Today, it’s okay to kill yourself. Tomorrow, it’s okay to kill someone else.

It’s not a slippery slope though because we draw lines. For example, the person has to consent.

And actually, the line can be more certainly drawn in the case of assisted suicide than unassisted suicide because of the presence of disinterested third parties to determine said consent, and to make sure the consent is competent, informed, and voluntary.

Furthermore, the assistance is not as distinguishing as you might think. Most ‘unassisted’ suicides also require assistance – the provision of a gun, a razor blade, a bottle of pills. A bridge.

Oh but the ‘assistance’ is provided without the intent to bring about the other’s death. So? Unassisted suicide is legal. How can intentionally assisting something legal be illegal?

Lastly, assistance is typically required in two cases. Either the person is physically incapable – in which case prohibiting assistance is clearly discrimination on the basis of physical ability (suicide is a right but only for physically capable people) – or the person just wants to get it done right – in which case assistance wouldn’t even be required if reliable, painless, user-friendly even-by-the-feeble methods were available.


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