Friday, May 01, 2015

"Assisted Dying" on Scott Adams' blog

The blog post, found here, presents the views of a person opposed to a "law" "legalizing" physician-assisted suicide.

As always, I am opposed to the very concept of "laws", knowing they are all either unnecessary or harmful. This is another case where not violating the self-ownership of others solves the "problem".

But, as I so often do, I weighed in on the issue. My comment is pasted below (quotes from the post in italics):

Mr. Akins starts out by (and continues throughout) appealing to the "common good", which is a myth; it undermines much of his argument. There are only individuals. What is good for the individual will be the highest good. Those appealing to the "common good" are always using this justification to violate individuals in some way, which wouldn't be good for the "common good", even if such a thing were real.

"What makes you think you have a moral right to medical assistance to kill yourself upon contracting a terminal disease?"
Self ownership. If you own yourself (and if you don't, who does?) then you have the absolute right to end yourself, and to hire someone- voluntarily and without coercion- to assist you if you so choose.

"Why that right in particular and not some other?"
It's not an either/or situation. You have the absolute human right to do anything which doesn't violate the equal and identical rights of anyone else. That includes hiring someone to help you end your life.

"I don’t think that such a legal right should be created."
There are no such things as "legal rights". There are legal privileges- which is really just the privilege to not have someone else's opinions imposed on you- until that "law" is changed. Rights can't be created or eliminated. They can only be respected or violated.

" involves a violation of the innate human dignity of the individuals who commit suicide."
In your opinion. So don't participate. Death probably violates "the innate human dignity of the individuals" no matter how it occurs, so this is a nonsense excuse.

"Our culture has been affected by a view that downplays or rejects the dignity of human beings."
Again, your opinion. I believe that saying you can make up a rule that violates self ownership is rejecting the dignity of humans a lot worse than respecting that right- even when it offends you- could ever do.

"We’re either ugly bags of mostly water or we’re human beings with intrinsic dignity."
Yes. And bags of water can be owned by someone else, and the owner can do with those as he sees fit without degrading their dignity (which they don't have). You don't have that right where humans are concerned.

"Just because you are older or in poorer health doesn’t mean that you have any less a right to life."
Of course not. You also have a right to own and to carry weapons. Would you like me to force you to do so against your wishes?

"...and so your life must still be respected."
Yes, and denying a person the freedom and liberty to do with that life as they see fit- as long as they aren't violating anyone else- does not respect their life at all.

"Just as we must respect the dignity that others have, we must respect our own dignity. "
And how did it become your right to tell others how that respect for the self must be put into action?

"A person killing himself is not a desirable outcome."
Again, in your opinion. Getting a terminal disease is also not a desirable outcome- but the universe doesn't seem to care. Probably the person seeking assisted suicide wouldn't have chosen to get the disease and be facing the choice. But it's not your choice to make for him.

"The innate human dignity that we possess demands that we seek another solution, such as treating the cause of the situation."
Why? What if no treatment is possible? Because that's the reality. Are you obligated to seek unicorns just because someone else believes you should?

"Because physician-assisted suicide involves others in suicide—doctors, pharmacists, nurses, etc.—it also involves a violation of their dignity."
They always have the right to refuse to participate. Any "law" which says they must help no matter their wishes would be wrong- but I don't think that's what anyone is promoting.

"Just as torturing another person is wrong even if the other person wants to be tortured."
Your opinion. I happen to agree this time, and wouldn't do it, but if it is mutually consensual it's none of your business. Nor mine.

"...legalizing physician-assisted suicide would produce various other problems..."
Why do you assume these would result? You think everyone- or a vast majority- would choose assisted suicide? If so, then your speculations might hold, but as long as there are a lot of people who wouldn't choose it, your objections and fearmongering don't work.

"I’m in favor of getting your grandmother the pain relief she needs in her last month of life."
Why do you assume physical pain is the only thing that could be causing her to want to die? What about being trapped in a body that no longer works, and seeing it shutting down more each and every day- knowing there is only one destination. Knowing she will never again walk through a meadow, or make love, or enjoy her favorite meal. How can your pain drugs deaden this pain without causing a coma? Why is that better than death?

"I could paint the plight of the victims of such laws in similar terms (e.g., 'Why do you favor a policy that would lead heartless doctors and greedy insurance companies to deny my grandmother the pain relief that she desperately needs and instead pressure her to kill herself against her will?')."
You could, but you'd be lying. It's the anti-drug "laws" that most get in the way- doctors are scared of losing their licenses or being arrested for "over-prescribing" pain meds.

" 'once my family wants me dead it is time to go anyway.' This statement is very alarming. The value of the individual is not the subject of a collectivist determination, even of one’s own family."
This wasn't about the family making the determination.

"Today, pain can be eliminated by drugs, for it is possible to place someone in a medically induced coma"
Why is this preferable to death? Because they could wake up? (To agonizing pain.) Just keep them in a coma til they die so they won't wake up in pain? Again, why is this preferable?

" the pains associated with age and/or disease occur, we find that we can deal with them better than we thought."
In which case, "we" probably won't be seeking assisted suicide.

"Thus many individuals who could end all pain by a medically induced coma may rationally decide that they would prefer to remain conscious and experience the benefits of consciousness, even if it means living with a certain level of pain."
And these would not be the people seeking assisted suicide.

"I was absolutely determined to make sure that my wife got all the medical care she wanted to have, and I made sure she did."
But what if "all the medical care she wanted to have" included help dying once she knew it was inevitable? Would you have then felt justified in violating her wishes? What's the difference?

"I think virtually everyone would agree that certain, highly destructive weapons simply should not be available for purchase by the general public"
Then those same weapons should certainly not be "owned" by governments, which are always made up of people indoctrinated to believe they are "above" such "silly notions" as "right and wrong". I'd trust my neighbor with a nuke before I'd trust any president or prime minister.

"My point is that physician-assisted suicide is wrong in and of itself..."
Then how about a new field that is not a physician, but instead a "suicide facilitator"? With completely different and more relevant training.

"But there are situations when we are suffering to the point that we might feel imprisoned"
If your body doesn't move and you must have others perform basic bodily functions for you, you don't simply "feel imprisoned", you are imprisoned more effectively than any cage could ever accomplish. Think of the most cruel imprisonment- putting a person in a body-sized iron cage- and you'll approach what some people are going through as they slowly die. Again, this is completely separate from the physical pain- although it could accompany it.

"It is true that some individuals experience pain that can only be satisfactorily treated by inducing unconsciousness..."
Pain is subjective, so your opinions about the pain others experience is irrelevant.

"However, 'if even one person' arguments famously lead to bad policies that do more harm than good."
Which is an excellent refutation of the belief in the legitimacy of "one-size-fits-all laws". Something I find absurd, anyway.

"Suffering does not deprive one of dignity."
Of course it does. I recently had a very painful kidney stone. The pain most assuredly deprived me of any dignity. It's hard to feel any sense of dignity- or to be viewed with dignity- while writhing on the floor. End of life pain (and debility) is sometimes orders of magnitude worse for the sufferer.

"Killing oneself is always a tragedy..."
Yes, but not always the worst tragedy.



  1. The sad reality of end-of-life care in America is that people like Jimmy Akins are in charge, and our deaths won't be easy.
    The new "laws" passed regarding "dignity" no longer allow rehabs (nursing homes) to use physical restraints (Lap Buddy) and while chemical restraints are also not allowed, these places are hiring psych nurses and giving them the power to decide that someone is "insane" and so needs medications (which act as chemical restraints) and so the dying person's end of life is spent in a drug-induced internal panic that prevents them from acting out by basically paralyzing their ability to function normally.
    I watched them do this to my 87 year old mother, who had no history of mental illness. She was a vibrant, independent, intelligent woman, who ran our household all my life. She broke her hip and insurance paid for the surgery to set the break, but when she came out of anesthesia, as many elderly do, confused and scared, they pumped her up with massive doses of anti-psych meds and she died two months later.
    The drug of choice for her and for us all is Seroquel. It will be the drug that MOST Americans will die on.
    We Baby Boomers would be wise to have our attorneys attempt an end-run around the psych nurses of our futures with properly worded living wills...

    1. That sounds even worse than one of those convenient drug-induced comas.

  2. Thank you for the eloquent comments, Kent. You couldn't be more right. As an older person who has been diagnosed with a fatal illness, which will leave me lacking any dignity whatsoever the last months of my life, I wish with all my heart for the ability to end my life painlessly when the time comes. To able to save my loved ones uncounted pain & grief. That I don't have that choice do to busybodies like this makes me more angry than you can imagine. How is it any of their business?!

    1. I sincerely wish I could help in a more concrete way than just writing my opinion. Best wishes, whatever comes.