restricted access An Undignified Side of Death with Dignity Legislation

The primary justification for Death with Dignity legislation has been the principle of respect for autonomy. However, some have objected that if respect for autonomy is the reason for allowing physician-assisted suicide, then why not allow it for people with longer than six months to live? Defenders of the laws have responded that respect for autonomy must be balanced against the state’s interest in the lives of its citizens. Persons with less than six months remaining have virtually no life left to protect; persons with more time have a meaningfully long segment of life remaining. The state can therefore overrule their autonomy interests to preserve their lives. This paper will argue that this response constitutes an ironic affront to the dignity of people with less than six months to live, for it implies that their lives are not worth enough for the state to prevent them from committing physician-assisted suicide.