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American Journal of Bioethics.

Physician Aid-in-Dying and Suicide Prevention in Psychiatry: A Moral Crisis?

Involuntary psychiatric commitment for suicide prevention and physician aid-in-dying (PAD) in terminal illness combine to create a moral dilemma. If PAD in terminal illness is permissible, it should also be permissible for some who suffer from nonterminal psychiatric illness: suffering provides much of the justification for PAD, and the suffering in mental illness can be as severe as in physical illness. But involuntary psychiatric commitment to prevent suicide suggests that the suffering of persons with mental illness does not justify ending their own lives, ruling out PAD. Since both practices have compelling underlying justifications, the most reasonable accommodation might seem to be to allow PAD for persons with mental illness whose suffering is severe enough to justify self-killing, but prohibit PAD for persons whose suffering is less severe. This compromise, however, would require the articulation of standards by which persons’ mental as well as physical suffering could be evaluated. Doing so would present a serious philosophical challenge.

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Volume 19, Issue 10
October 2019