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Analysing the Issue of Psychiatric Assisted Dying from the Perspective of Parity: Does Parity Demand Access?

Author:

Allegra Enefer

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), GB
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Abstract

The UK is ostensibly committed to achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health, and yet attempts to legalise assisted dying in recent years have focused exclusively on physical suffering. In this article I will analyse the issue of psychiatric assisted dying from a ‘parity perspective’. According to this perspective, a blanket prohibition on psychiatric assisted dying would only be justified if there existed a relevant difference between mental and physical illness which could not be accommodated with proportionate safeguards. Three justifications for treating these cases differently have been advanced in the literature: firstly, that the normative rationale for assisted dying could only apply to physical suffering; secondly, that mental illness cannot be considered ‘incurable’; and thirdly, that severely mentally ill patients cannot be considered competent to request assisted dying. As I will demonstrate, none of these justifications are persuasive. Furthermore, risks which do exist specifically in the psychiatric context can be accommodated through parity-focused safeguards. I will conclude that no relevant difference exists between mental and physical illness that proportionally justifies a blanket prohibition on psychiatric assisted dying. Therefore, any attempt to legalise assisted dying in England and Wales must permit access for certain psychiatric patients.
How to Cite: Enefer, A., 2021. Analysing the Issue of Psychiatric Assisted Dying from the Perspective of Parity: Does Parity Demand Access?. LSE Law Review, 6(2), pp.127–168.
Published on 24 Feb 2021.
Peer Reviewed

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