This post is based on a very sad story and I usually wouldn't post a story like this. However, this girl that I am talking about, Britney, has decided to make her decision public with the intention of raising awareness for assisted suicide. Therefore, I will honor her memory and at least start a discussion about assisted suicide. First, here is the article:
Here is a strong passage from the article:
|I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me? |
If you read some of the comments on this website and other news websites (this website isn't as bad because moderation has taken a lot of the abusive comments down), you'll see the usual "Only God has a right to take a life; she'll go to Hell for committing suicide; she's being selfish to her family; etc."
This is a topic that is unfortunate to discuss because I hope that no one ever has to face a painful and agonizing death (especially at the young age of 29) and this is incredibly sad. But, it is a reality. And Britney has chosen to become a spokeswoman for this cause. Therefore, let's discuss.
Is there any philosophical (you can use a religious argument if you want but it won't really interest me) argument against allowing someone to prematurely end a very painful death? Is there any reason why a terminally ill patient should not be allowed to go out with dignity and without pain? I can't think of a single reason against it. There is a possibility of a cure being discovered but Britney has weeks to live and so that really isn't a realistic possibility :(
|Afaceinthematrix wrote: |
|Is there any philosophical (you can use a religious argument if you want but it won't really interest me) argument against allowing someone to prematurely end a very painful death? Is there any reason why a terminally ill patient should not be allowed to go out with dignity and without pain? I can't think of a single reason against it. There is a possibility of a cure being discovered but Britney has weeks to live and so that really isn't a realistic possibility |
I think there is no moral issue with somebody committing suicide for whatever reason. The problem starts when there is assistance needed to do so because that could bring the assistant in trouble. In that case a very grey area starts, spawning from fully obviously justified cases (like Britney's as it seems) to cases where people have severe brain damages and cannot decide anymore for themselves. The Nazis perverted this case, murdering lots of handicapped people as they thought their life was not worth living. So the problem is: in which cases would you allow a doctor to kill somebody else and how will you prevent abuse?
The article explains assisted suicide like this: "I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable."
In this particular case there seems to be no gray area. She takes the medication and fully controls the process. But what if she waits too long? Will her husband then have the right to kill her? What if one day she changes her mind as her personality changes? Will he still be allowed to kill her?
I have no final answer to this problem, but I don't think it's as simple as the article suggests.
I can see no moral problem with ending your own life in these circumstances. Moral issues arise only when other people are affected - so it is possible to argue that committing suicide in some circumstances is an immoral act because of the way it affects others. To give a simple example, stepping in front of a train undoubtedly would have traumatic effects on the driver in many cases - and I understand that some train drivers have suffered serious post trauma illness as a result.
As far as the legalities go (as opposed to the morality) then I can see no case in which the state would be justified in preventing the suicide of a rational adult (the catch-22 argument that some religious commentators try to make - that the very fact that one is contemplating suicide means one is not behaving rationally - seems to me to be insultingly arrogant as well as completely fallacious). The difficulty, therefore, seems to appear when a third party is required to partake in the suicide - because the person is physically incapable of committing suicide unaided.
The standard 'anti' argument is the 'slippery slope'. Opponents maintain that any legalisation of assisted suicide would lead to people pressurising relatives to kill themselves for selfish reasons - either to inherit or to free themselves from costly care bills or similar. A variation on this is the argument that the person might feel pressure to commit suicide even where there was no pressure or coercion from relatives, simply because they felt that they were being a burden. It should be noted that this argument (and the variant) is not specific to assisted suicide. Most elderly people are physically able to commit suicide if they so wish. The argument assumes that the element of assistance would, essentially, lower the bar - making it 'easier' to do the deed, thus allowing the person to be first pressurised into accepting the case for suicide and then 'helped' to do the deed. I'll leave this to posters to discuss and take positions on this argument - my own opinion is that the argument is largely fallacious and even if we strip away the fallacious elements it is not a showstopper - any valid concerns can be addressed in the implementation.
The other argument sometimes deployed - exclusively by the religious in my experience - the argument that human life is sacred and is not ours to end - seems to me to be such utter hypocritical and offensive bollox that it requires no detailed examination in order to dismiss.
|Bikerman wrote: |
|The standard 'anti' argument is the 'slippery slope'. Opponents maintain that any legalisation of assisted suicide would lead to people pressurising relatives to kill themselves for selfish reasons - either to inherit or to free themselves from costly care bills or similar. |
I've actually heard this same argument used against being an organ donor. Some people don't want to donate their organs because the doctor may not try as hard to save them if someone needs their kidney.
I think that this argument fails on several accounts such as:
1) Why would the doctor care less about their life than the life of the person receiving the kidney? They're both, almost certainly, strangers to the doctor.
2) The NFL is probably the only thing in the world that Americans love more than lawsuits and any doctor would absolutely fear doing something like this because families will often time sue for legimate practices simply because the patient didn't survive (that's probably one reason why our healthcare is so ridiculously expensive; every doctor has to have mounds of malpractice insurance).
3) It's also just plain selfish to deny someone the chance to live off of something that you have absolutely no use for anymore because you're already dead.
|Afaceinthematrix wrote: |
|If you read some of the comments on this website and other news websites (this website isn't as bad because moderation has taken a lot of the abusive comments down), you'll see the usual "Only God has a right to take a life; she'll go to Hell for committing suicide; she's being selfish to her family; etc." |
That attitude is so offensive to me, but even worse is i've seen it taken to horrific extremes. I'm sure you remember 9/11, but do you remember the people who jumped out of the burning buildings? They technically committed suicide, and we all know the Catholic Church's position on suicides. Real people did a lot of hand-wringing and mental acrobatics to find a way to "excuse" the 9/11 jumpers, latching on to silly notions like that the jumpers threw themselves out of the window because the had done some kind of risk calculation and figured their chances were better jumping than staying put.
But worst of all was the story of the family of the guy in one of the most famous pictures. He was more or less positively identified, but when they went to the family - who were devout Catholic - the family vehemently denied it was him. Couldn't be, they said, because he wouldn't commit suicide; it was against Catholic doctrine. If they admitted that he had, the believed, then he wouldn't get a proper Catholic funeral.
|Afaceinthematrix wrote: |
|Is there any philosophical (you can use a religious argument if you want but it won't really interest me) argument against allowing someone to prematurely end a very painful death? Is there any reason why a terminally ill patient should not be allowed to go out with dignity and without pain? I can't think of a single reason against it. |
There are actually several, though i personally find most of them quite weak. Most of them, in my opinion, are just thinly veiled religious arguments that boil down to "your life is not really yours (because you didn't give it to yourself, because you can't create life therefore you can't own it, etc.), so you don't have final authority over it". But there are some remotely plausible ones.
For example, the classic utilitarian argument is that the whole point of being a moral agent is that you have to have the ability to make moral choices. Being able to make moral choices means you not only have a responsibility to make good moral choices, it means you have a responsibility to maintain your power to make choices. Anything you do to take away that power is thus immoral. A good analogy is this: as the driver of a vehicle, you have a responsibility not only to control the vehicle properly (so you don't kill anyone), but you also have the responsibility to not do anything that will take away your ability to control the vehicle - like putting on a blindfold; it's obviously wrong to steer the vehicle in a way that kills someone, but you also can't simply knock yourself out then argue it wasn't your fault when the car kills someone because you didn't have the power to control it at the time.
(The counterargument to that in classical utilitarianism is that each person knows best for themselves what the best options are to maximize/minimize happiness/suffering. But don't drill me too hard on that, because i find it a little incoherent... but then i find utilitarianism incoherent in general.)
In the original Kantian deontological formulation, suicide is wrong because anything that treats a moral agent solely as a means to an end is wrong. It's okay to use a moral agent for pleasure, so long as their welfare is considered in the decision and you're not solely using them - hence sex is okay, rape is not. It's even okay to hurt agents so long as their welfare is considered - hence rough sex is okay, too, so long as the person taking the pain is enjoying it. The problem with suicide is that even though there's technically only one agent involved, it's still a case of destroying someone for your pleasure - you are using "you" solely as a means to an end; "you" they get no benefit from it (you can't because you're dead).
(That view isn't held in modern neo-Kantianism, because... well, frankly because it's ****** idiotic. It's perfectly okay for an agent to "use themselves" as a means to an end they want, because then they're clearly not using themselves solely as a means - they're obviously getting the end they want. The fact that won't be alive to enjoy is neither here nor there, because it is their desired outcome.)
Virtue ethics, as always, i'm a little fuzzy on. I suppose the argument would be that there is no virtue in meaningless self-sacrifice - that is, sacrifice that doesn't actually do anyone else any good. (Arguing that it would do people good, in that they wouldn't have to watch you suffer or care for you, would be really problematic.)