(Australasian Catholic Record; 94 (4) )
At the forefront of the current debate on 'assisted death' is the autonomy argument. Advocates of assisted death often appeal to respect for autonomy as a trump card that can override all other considerations: the value of human life, the prohibition of killing in the medical tradition, and other social responsibilities. For Kant, who invented the concept of autonomy and regarded it as the manifestation of human dignity, the concept of killing oneself is rationally indefensible and totally at odds with the exercise of autonomy. This article discusses the origin of respect for autonomy in health ethics, and provides a Kantian critique of physician-assisted death.