Everyday Attitudes About Euthanasia and the Slippery Slope Argument

In Michael Cholbi & Jukka Varelius (eds.), New Directions in the Ethics of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Cham: Springer Verlag. pp. 145-165 (2015)
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This chapter provides empirical evidence about everyday attitudes concerning euthanasia. These attitudes have important implications for some ethical arguments about euthanasia. Two experiments suggested that some different descriptions of euthanasia have modest effects on people’s moral permissibility judgments regarding euthanasia. Experiment 1 (N = 422) used two different types of materials (scenarios and scales) and found that describing euthanasia differently (‘euthanasia’, ‘aid in dying’, and ‘physician assisted suicide’) had modest effects (≈3 % of the total variance) on permissibility judgments. These effects were largely replicated in Experiment 2 (N = 409). However, in Experiment 2, judgments about euthanasia’s moral permissibility were best predicted by the voluntariness of the treatment. Voluntariness was a stronger predictor than some demographic factors and some domain general elements of moral judgments. These results help inform some debates about the moral permissibility of euthanasia (e.g., the slippery slope argument) suggesting that some of the key premises of those arguments are unwarranted.

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Adam Feltz
Michigan Technological University


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