Why, as part of our Open Future initiative, The Economist has asked proponents and opponents of assisted dying to write for us


LITTLE doubt exists as to where The Economist stands on assisted dying. In 2015 we ran a cover calling for laws to be changed in Britain and elsewhere to allow doctors to help the terminally ill and the suffering to choose when they die. We wrote:

“In a secular society, it is odd to buttress the sanctity of life in the abstract by subjecting a lot of particular lives to unbearable pain, misery and suffering. And evidence from places that have allowed assisted dying suggests that there is no slippery slope towards widespread euthanasia. In fact, the evidence leads to the conclusion that most of the schemes for assisted dying should be bolder.


Competent adults are allowed to make other momentous, irrevocable choices: to undergo a sex change or to have an abortion. People deserve the same control over their own death. Instead of dying in intensive care under bright lights and among strangers, people should be able to end their lives when they are ready, surrounded by those they love”.

But as part of our Open Future initiative—in which, for our 175th anniversary, we aim to remake the case for liberalism—we wanted to open up the conversation to both sides, in the spirit of respectful debate.

Over the coming two weeks, we will run essays by people who are both for and against assisted dying. We have got a wide range of contributors: from doctors and lawyers who have fought for the right of patients or clients to die as they choose, to medical practitioners and atheists who are opposed to the idea. We include one person who, faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis, is considering taking themselves to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. Contributions come from Guernsey (where a recent attempt to allow assisted dying was squashed), Britain, Canada, Switzerland and Belgium. We will publish two to three articles each day this week; then, in the week beginning August 27th, some of our contributors will respond to one another.

We have tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but inevitably we have not managed to include every aspect of this debate, or a voice from every country in which this is an incendiary issue.

Week one:

Steven Fletcher: Dying with dignity is the biggest shift in morality in a generation

Emilie Yerby:  Guernsey was right to reject assisted dying

Ellen Wiebe:  Doctors should ensure their patients have a good death

Charles Falconer: The law on assisted dying in Britain is incoherent and hypocritical

Ilora Finlay:  Fear of dying should not lead to dangerous legal changes

Bernhard Sutter:  Patients should have the right to assisted dying

Kevin Yuill:  Liberals and atheists can also oppose assisted dying

Michael Irwin: A doctor-assisted suicide is a human right and a relief for many

Peter Saunders: Assisted dying is simply another form of euthanasia

Benoit Beuselinck: Proper palliative care makes assisted dying unnecessary

Anonymous: Patients alone have the right to decide whether to end their lives

Trista Carey: Assisted dying is the natural extension of pro-choice beliefs

Dignitas: Access to end-of-life options improves public health

Raphael Cohen-Almagor: Patients should be allowed to die at home, surrounded by family and friends

Week two:

Emilie Yerby: Assisted dying would be damaging to those whose choices are not simple

Ellen Wiebe: Canada’s example of assisted dying refutes those who argue against it

Kevin Yuill: The case for assisted dying is still inherently flawed

Trista Carey: Fears of undignified or painful deaths are nothing new

Steven Fletcher: Assisted dying legislation is part of a modern, healthy democracy

James Mildred: The slippery slope of assisted dying is real

Michael Irwin: Assisted dying should be an option for all competent, suffering adults

Bernhard Sutter: We need to respect people’s desire for a decent death

Ilora Finlay: Accurate language matters in this life-and-death debate

Closing remarks: After two weeks, our assisted-dying series comes to a close.

Find more about Open Future here.