In the debate on assisted suicide, a person’s right to determine how and when he or she dies is widely recognised. However, there is a dispute concerning the conditions under which a person’s decision to end his or her life with another person’s assistance can be considered autonomous.

Lay summary

Throughout the intensive debate on more restrictive regulation of assisted suicide in Switzerland, the right to authonomy was considered highly important by all sides. However, it became clear that there is a great lack of clarity and disagreement regarding the conditions that a person must fulfil for the decision for assisted suicide to be viewed as autonomous. For example, both advocates and opponents of more restrictive regulation gave autonomy as the reason for their positions.

This study will clarify what conditions proposed in the debate can sensibly be brought in relation to au-tonomy and how these conditions can be specified. When examining the philosophical, legal, psycho-logical and public debates, the research team will test two working hypotheses: (1) An exacting definition of autonomy that would justify restrictions on assisted suicide cannot be defended in a liberal context, and (2) Some of the proposed conditions can be traced back to other values that differ from autonomy, such as welfare, protection of life or human dignity. For this reason, they should not be considered in the determination of the conditions for autonomy.

Clarification of the conditions for autonomy is not only indispensable for academic debates but also for policy and public discussion on the regulation of assisted suicide. By determining a definition of autonomy, the study opens up an important perspective on the current debate: if restrictions cannot be justifed based on autonomy (for example, for healthy persons with a death wish), what importance should be placed on the principle of respect for autonomy? On the issue of regulation of assisted suicide, should values other than autonomy, such as welfare, protection of life or human dignity, be taken into stronger consideration?