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Physician-Assisted Suicide: Arguments Against


In modern healthcare, there are many practices that polarize society, and physician-assisted suicide is one of them. Since the practice involves what many associate with an act of killing, the universal legalization of PAS has implications for medical ethics. Judging from modern researchers’ works, PAS is considered as an inappropriate practice due to its effects on provider-patient relationships, physicians’ moral injury, and the devaluation of life.

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Given that PAS is different from euthanasia and other practices associated with the provision of assistance in dying, qualifiers and definitions are necessary. Both PAS and euthanasia are ethically controversial, but the latter includes some direct actions that immediately lead to a patient’s death. As for PAS, it does not involve the same degree of doctors’ participation in the intentional termination of life. As is clear from the term, PAS can be defined as the provision of tools (drugs, etc.) to be used by terminally ill patients to cope with unbearable suffering.

1st Con-Point

People who believe that PAS is a harmful practice often explain their position with reference to the basic values in relationships between healthcare providers and patients. For instance, Anderson (2015) who is the Heritage Foundation researcher justifies the inappropriateness of PAS discussing mutual trust in healthcare. According to him, the very fact that “the tools of healing are used as techniques for killing” can prevent patients from trusting healthcare providers (Anderson, 2015, p. 2).

Banovic, Turanjanin, and Miloradovic (2017) are three Serbian researchers in the field of medical ethics who also refer to the potential effects of PAS on relationships. They claim that a sense of guilt after using this practice can negatively affect patient-provider interactions (Banovic et al., 2017). The absence of trust in such relationships can potentially impact healthcare quality in many ways, including the growth of anti-medicine movements, and this is why the evidence highlights an important ethical issue.

2nd Con-Point

The inappropriateness of the practice in question is often discussed with reference to the effects that PAS has on physicians’ mental health. In their academic article devoted to the ethical perceptions of PAS, Banovic et al. (2017) thoroughly discuss physicians’ attitudes to this practice and its potential mental health effects. According to their conclusions, more than 56% of physicians in Serbia believe that PAS is ethically inappropriate in any circumstances (Banovic et al., 2017).

Such opinions can be related to a number of factors, including healthcare providers’ religious values and the fear of moral suffering as an effect of PAS (Banovic et al., 2017). The evidence suggests that the legal status of PAS and its ethical appropriateness may need to be analyzed from the perspective of healthcare providers who are sometimes expected to violate their personal principles.

3rd Con-Point

PAS is also criticized due to its potential ability to change values in healthcare and the logical inconsistency of arguments supporting it. The study by Sulmasy, Travaline, Mitchell, and Ely (2016) who specialize in medicine explains this argument in a detailed way. According to the researchers, PAS is said to support human life as the ultimate value (Sulmasy et al., 2016) However, in fact, the willingness to provide tools for suicide devalues life and presents it as something that can be managed easily (Sulmasy et al., 2016).

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Based on such claims, the universal recognition and normalization of PAS can have harmful long-term consequences related to the perceptions of life and its value. The threat that human life will once be regarded as property shows numerous ethical concerns related to the practice.


To sum it up, modern authors who have experience in the field of medicine criticize PAS due to its potential effects on the quality of healthcare and the basic principles of medical ethics. In particular, it is stated that PAS can lead to a lack of trust in patient-provider relationships and cause physicians’ moral suffering. At the same time, there are concerns related to the devaluation of human life.


Anderson, R. T. (2015). Four problems with physician-assisted suicide. The Heritage Foundation Issue Brief, 4370, 1-3. Web.

Banovic, B., Turanjanin, V., & Miloradovic, A. (2017). An ethical review of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 46(2), 173-179.

Sulmasy, D. P., Travaline, J. M., Mitchell, L. A., & Ely, E. W. (2016). Non-faith-based arguments against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(3), 246-257.

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