Document Type


Publication Date

January 1997


In recent years, numerous initiatives have been launched to promote physician-assisted suicide. Numerous statutes have been proposed, and one (in Oregon) has been enacted. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit were recently persuaded to recognize constitutionally protected rights to assisted suicide, although their decisions have been reversed by the Supreme Court. An international organization called the World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies furthers such efforts in other countries. The two most common justifications for such initiatives are that assisted suicide enhances freedom or liberty, and that it maximizes utility. Would freedom be enhanced by the practice of physician assistance in suicide or by legal doctrines permitting it? Would utility be maximized? Walk into a room containing the corpse of a recent suicide surrounded by his bewildered friends and relatives and you may not readily identify it as a scene of liberation and rejoicing. This article concludes that your intuition is correct: that assisted suicide does not enhance freedom or promote utility.