In South Africa, assisted suicide if illegal irrespective of circumstances. Let's say you are a judge of a high court and the following case comes before you:

A terminally ill patient suffers from acute pain on a daily basis, and wishes to end his/her own life in a dignified manor. Would it not be ethically wrong to refuse them the right of a dignified death by assisted suicide if that is what they want?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Conifold, Gordon, Joseph Weissman Apr 18 '18 at 23:24

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • The more I look at this question, the more it looks like homework. When you mention South Africa and High Court, you are firmly within the realm of fact. We don't know what law the High Court is required to follow, or whether your high court is allowed to develop the law, as in our substantive due process jurisprudence. Sure, the judge is informed by the personal ethics she takes to the bench with her, usually a hazy understanding of The Bible, but her personal ethics is not law. So I personally think this is for legal SE--law and facts; why? b/c it depends on knowing your system. – Gordon Apr 18 '18 at 21:56
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    Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. "What do you think" and "what would you do" questions that invite personal opinions are off-topic on this site, and essay questions are only on-topic if the poster gives their reasoning on the issue and identifies a specific difficulty. Please edit your question to this effect. – Conifold Apr 18 '18 at 22:46

The other answer is wrong. The right to assisted suicide will not "inevitably" come into conflict with the right of doctors. Plenty of doctors exist who would be more than happy to help somebody who'd want to be free from their pain.

Just because you can't guarantee that all doctors unanimously agree to provide assisted suicide doesn't make the enterprise conflictory. That's like saying just because not every mechanic knows how to repair a Volvo, that means you shouldn't own a Volvo or something idiotic like that. No, you just go to the Volvo-specialist. Problem solved.


Unfortunately, if there were such a right as the right to dignified death by assisted suicide, it would inevitably come into conflict with the right of doctors to practice medicine according to their personal ethic.

In the US, many doctors make a ceremonial oath when they begin to practice which is called the "Hippocratic Oath". It has changed from time to time since it was written in the days of Plato and Socrates, but its core is the same: "First do no harm."

Every doctor either does or does not call it "doing no harm" to assist a person who wishes to kill him- or herself. In your example, if no doctors were available who see it this way, who has the authority to force some doctor to "do harm"?

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    Not that long ago in America, when people had the same doctor for many years, it was common to administer this service when the patient was close to death with very little to look forward to but pain. This was done quietly, and especially if the patient had been transferred back home. The less said, the better. It worked well, but with all the publicity now we have an unfortunate mess. – Gordon Apr 18 '18 at 22:16
  • I see a firm ethical line between withholding some life-extending treatment (like life support) and administering some life-terminating chemical poison. It may seem arbitrary, but I see that a doctor is not responsible for "what happens" but for "what he or she does", defining "to do" in the strictly positive sense, i.e. "what action you do take" as opposed to "what, if any, action you withhold." Thus, administering pain killer and allowing a person to die of their disease could be ethical, but not administering an intentional overdose in order to speed death. – elliot svensson Apr 18 '18 at 22:23
  • Administering painkiller was the route, as to the dose... And I left out an important point. The patient had let her family know and/or let the doctor know they wanted it. This has nothing to do with living wills or HCPOA. It still goes on to some degree if the doctor trusts the situation, I have no doubt. – Gordon Apr 18 '18 at 22:41