In this paper I argue that no state should legalise euthanasia, either voluntary or non-voluntary. I begin by outlining three political arguments against such legalisation, by Russell Hittinger, Elizabeth Anscombe and David Novak. Each concludes, on different grounds, that legalised euthanasia fatally erodes the role and authority of the state. Although correct in their conclusion, the arguments they provide are deficient. To fill this gap, I elaborate what I call a ‘fourfold dialectic’ between autonomy and compassion, the two central motivations for legalising euthanasia. I show that these motivations systematically and progressively undermine each other, yielding a situation where individual autonomy and doctors’ duty of care are effectively eviscerated. It follows that state authority, which depends on upholding both of these, is itself eviscerated. In this way, the conclusion of the political arguments above finally finds demonstrative support.

About the Author

Tom P. S. Angier lectures in Philosophy at the University of Cape Town. He previously held temporary positions at the Universities of Leeds, Kent and St Andrews. His historical interests centre on Ancient Greek Philosophy, while his thematic interests centre on moral and political theory.