An Ethical Perspective
Ernlé W. D. Young
Although the primary intent of this [chapter] is to provide an ethical perspective on assisting those who are terminally ill to end their own lives, it will be helpful to begin the analysis by reflecting on suicide in general.
One of the advantages of a principled approach to ethics, whether deontological or rule utilitarian, 1 is that one does not have to reinvent the wheel each time one confronts a moral dilemma or faces a moral decision. Principles, serving as guiding norms, express the distillation of human moral wisdom. They suggest what, prima facie, one ought or ought not to do in a given situation. What one actually does, or does not do, or which among competing principles one chooses to protect, will, of course, depend on the facts of the case and, at least if one subscribes to the theory of W. D. Ross, a consequentialist calculation about which principle, above all others, will serve to maximize utility. 2
With respect to the issue of suicide, in general, two moral principles are always potentially in conflict. On the one hand, there is the principle____________________