In Defense of Suicide Tourism

Daniel Sperling, S.J.D., B.A.(Philosophy)

Recent reports from across the world involve stories of citizens embarking on trips mainly to Switzerland and Mexico to be assisted in their suicide by some other person/s. In Switzerland, for example, once contacted, a Swiss organisation named Dignitas provides background information and examines whether there are other ways of tackling or minimizing the suicidal person’s suffering, including through access to palliative care. However, when a person's wish to die is strong and firm, Dignitas may locate a Swiss doctor who will issue the lethal barbiturate prescription following a screening process and some legal examination.

From legal and ethical perspectives there are few alternatives for jurisdictions whose citizens are embarking on assisted suicide tourism (ST). These include restricting particular benefits and services (Euthanasia) to residents and/or preventing residents from leaving to take up options available elsewhere; providing a unified and harmonized moral stance with regard to ST; or permitting ST under the assumption that ST can be justified by an appeal to the principle of interstate moral pluralism. Yet, the choice between such alternatives derives from the moral justifications of the practice of suicide tourism that in themselves are linked to the symbolic and emotional meanings that death carries in each or every society. The article will analyze and discuss these latter justifications and provide a prima facie argument in support of the practice of ST.

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