Intended for healthcare professionals


“Right to die”

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 07 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:799
  1. A C Grayling, professor of philosophy
  1. School of Philosophy, Birkbeck College, London WC1E 7HX

    The moral basis of the right to die is the right to good quality life

    As this week's House of Lords report on assisted dying shows, the question of the right to die has become one of the most important in contemporary ethics.1 The case of Terri Schiavo in Florida has stimulated further debate about the issue.2 Her circumstances illustrate the fact that the question has two different aspects. One concerns the assertion by individuals of their own right to die—for example, in a living will. The other concerns those who, like Terri Schiavo, are not in a position to express a wish to die but on whose behalf the request is made either by relatives who believe that this would be their wish or by medical practitioners who judge that it is not in the person's interests to be maintained on life support without realistic chances of recovery.

    The first aspect is relatively simple. Individuals of sound mind and settled purpose who wish to die are in many countries free …

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