In most jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal, patients seeking euthanasia need to seek out the approval of their request from two clinicians (one of who is a psychiatrist). These doctors are required to assess whether euthanasia is ‘appropriate’ for the patient in question. In this paper I claim that doctors qua doctors are not qualified (or, at least, not typically) to evaluate suffering of an existential kind, and consequently they are not qualified to 'evaluate' the requests of patients seeking euthanasia. Importantly, this argument is only focused on patients who are seeking euthanasia on account of acute suffering.

To defend my central thesis, I discuss the limits of the professional expertise of clinicians, in addition to considering the nature of suffering experienced by patients requesting euthanasia (which is, typically, a combination of physiological, psychological and existential suffering).

About the Author

Xavier Symons is a research associate with the Institute for Ethics and Society, and a PhD research student with the Centre for Moral Philosophy and Applied Ethics at the Australian Catholic University. He is also a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics.