Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Why Suicide Shouldn’t Be a Choice

 
Brittany
Brittany Maynard — the face of the assisted suicide campaign

Here in California, SB128 has made it out of the Senate and is heading to the Assembly for debate and a vote. SB128 is a bill to make doctor-assisted suicide legal in California.

When people think about this issue, the scenario that comes up always is that of terminally ill patients who want to end their pain and suffering. You can find support for this position even among Republicans who are older and/or libertarian. The coalition opposed to the measure is constantly struggling to point out that assisted suicide on the basis of personal choice is an argument for suicide-on-demand. You can look at this piece to see the abuse taking place in Belgium, but it also happens here, where miscommunication between doctors leads to one endorsing suicide and another suggesting further treatment.

My colleague, Wayne Johnson, wrote this piece for the Flash Report — a blog of California-based issues — responding to the libertarian argument. It’s a quick read but here’s an excerpt:

“When someone is diagnosed as having less than six months to live, why shouldn’t they be given the choice to end their life on their own terms instead of enduring months of pain and suffering?”

That’s a straightforward question, and it deserves an answer. After all, whose life is it anyway?

The problem, of course, is that once the issue is reduced to a subjective personal choice we are, for all intents and purposes, out of the suicide prevention business.

We have to ask, since suicide is already legal in California, why the push to put society’s stamp of approval on it? After all, if it’s really just a personal choice, why should the rest of care one way or the other?

And yet, we do.

We care about the sick, the poor and the unemployed. We care about the heartbroken teenager, and the kids whose parents are going through an ugly divorce. Our heroes are the good Samaritans and the rescuers, those who place themselves at risk for others. Those who care. And if we deserve to be called a just and compassionate people, we will continue to not only care, but to intervene.

Your thoughts?

There are 51 comments.

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  1. Jason Rudert Member

    What connection does the photo have?

    • #1
    • June 20, 2015, at 12:57 PM PDT
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  2. Charles Mark Member
    Charles MarkJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If you keep saying the lives of the old and debilitated aren’t worth living, or telling the very sick that there’s no dignity in dying naturally then they will come to feel duty-bound to die. It’s grotesque.

    • #2
    • June 20, 2015, at 1:03 PM PDT
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  3. Merina Smith Inactive

    Amen. I pray this goes down, but have little faith in the CA legislature.

    • #3
    • June 20, 2015, at 1:06 PM PDT
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  4. Jason Rudert Member

    Never mind. Searched for her. Brittany Maynard.

    • #4
    • June 20, 2015, at 1:13 PM PDT
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  5. A-Squared Coolidge

    While I am a strong believer that suicide is usually a permanent solution to temporary problems, I think it can be a permanent solution to permanent problems.

    Forcing people to live in agony is not compassion.

    • #5
    • June 20, 2015, at 1:39 PM PDT
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  6. captainpower Inactive

    http://www.flashreport.org/blog/2015/06/18/libertarianism-and-suicide-why-making-death-a-choice-is-a-bad-idea/

    • #6
    • June 20, 2015, at 1:50 PM PDT
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  7. Charles Mark Member
    Charles MarkJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I have a problem with the proposition that there’s a stark choice between death and living in agony. There is palliative care, for instance. This is sometimes omitted from the discussion.

    • #7
    • June 20, 2015, at 1:50 PM PDT
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  8. captainpower Inactive

    Charles Mark:If you keep saying the lives of the old and debilitated aren’t worth living, or telling the very sick that there’s no dignity in dying naturally then they will come to feel duty-bound to die. It’s grotesque.

    Also, the old and sick are very expensive. We could solve all our entitlement problems if they would just choose to commit suicide rather than holding on to life for another 40 years after retirement.

    Is that a solution worth considering, I don’t think so, but I’m not convinced it won’t start to sound more and more sane as we descend the slippery slope of physician assisted suicide.

    Wesley J. Smith at National Review has written better and researched far more than I have. I commend him to anyone interested in this topic.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/human-exceptionalism/414607/suicide-advocacy-hurts-sick-wesley-j-smith

    http://www.nationalreview.com/author/wesley-j-smith

    [edit] Here’s another NR interview from a heritage study. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415935/lethal-logic-assisted-suicide-interview

    • #8
    • June 20, 2015, at 1:53 PM PDT
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  9. Profile Photo Member

    I’ve never been completely at ease with any argument on either side of this issue. I don’t see the good of telling a 90-year-old with something as painful as bone cancer to just take more painkillers. On the other hand, I don’t think that if you catch your 21-year-old roommate hanging herself over a broken heart that you violate her natural or constitutional rights by cutting her down.

    • #9
    • June 20, 2015, at 2:05 PM PDT
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  10. captainpower Inactive

    Quinn the Eskimo:I’ve never been completely at ease with any argument on either side of this issue. I don’t see the good of telling a 90-year-old with something as painful as bone cancer to just take more painkillers. On the other hand, I don’t think that if you catch your 21-year-old roommate hanging herself over a broken heart that you violate her natural or constitutional rights by cutting her down.

    She should’ve done it where no one would ever find the body if she didn’t want to be helped. My understanding is that the Japanese are very good about that.

    How am I supposed to know the difference between a “cry for help” and someone who really wants to die?

    Sorry if that’s too dark.

    • #10
    • June 20, 2015, at 2:11 PM PDT
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  11. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Charles Mark:If you keep saying the lives of the old and debilitated aren’t worth living, or telling the very sick that there’s no dignity in dying naturally then they will come to feel duty-bound to die. It’s grotesque.

    On the other hand, much of the fight against keeping the old and sick alive at any cost is simply a fight for the right to a natural death.

    When we cannot swallow our own food, drink our own water, or breathe our own air, we should be permitted to die at our own pace. Stuffing us with tubes against our will to preserve a meat sack that has practically no hope of recovery is not humane: it’s torture.

    Preserving the stigma against actively courting death even at this point remains reasonable, but forbidding the terminally ill from passively courting death with the argument that “Now that these heroic measures exist, refusing them is actively choosing to die” is unconscionable. Yet that kind of unconscionable social pressure is what many face at the end of life, especially from guilty relatives making a last-ditch attempt to “rescue” their dying loved ones in an absurd attempt to make up for lost time.

    • #11
    • June 20, 2015, at 2:28 PM PDT
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  12. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Quinn the Eskimo:I’ve never been completely at ease with any argument on either side of this issue. I don’t see the good of telling a 90-year-old with something as painful as bone cancer to just take more painkillers.

    Actually, “just take more painkillers” is reasonable advice: at some point, enough of the strongest painkillers cause respiratory arrest and death. And when a person is already nearing death in that kind of pain, there is less need to monitor painkiller intake in order to prevent “accidental” respiratory arrest and death.

    • #12
    • June 20, 2015, at 2:32 PM PDT
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  13. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    captainpower:How am I supposed to know the difference between a “cry for help” and someone who really wants to die?

    Sorry if that’s too dark.

    And if someone really wants to die, is that a reasonable desire, or the result of a serious mental illness or disturbance, spiritual problem, or something else equally sinister?

    I know that it may sound crazy, but demon possession seems as reasonable an explanation as “mental illness” for some of the apparently insane things that people do.

    • #13
    • June 20, 2015, at 2:45 PM PDT
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  14. MarciN Member

    captainpower:

    Charles Mark:If you keep saying the lives of the old and debilitated aren’t worth living, or telling the very sick that there’s no dignity in dying naturally then they will come to feel duty-bound to die. It’s grotesque.

    Also, the old and sick are very expensive. We could solve all our entitlement problems if they would just choose to commit suicide rather than holding on to life for another 40 years after retirement.

    Is that a solution worth considering, I don’t think so, but I’m not convinced it won’t start to sound more and more sane as we descend the slippery slope of physician assisted suicide.

    Wesley J. Smith at National Review has written better and researched far more than I have. I commend him to anyone interested in this topic.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/human-exceptionalism/414607/suicide-advocacy-hurts-sick-wesley-j-smith

    http://www.nationalreview.com/author/wesley-j-smith

    [edit] Here’s another NR interview from a heritage study. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415935/lethal-logic-assisted-suicide-interview

    I too am a reader of Wesley J. Smith. Nice to see him cited here.

    Dying is pretty easy. Living is a little harder, and that’s what we need to work on. Helping people feel their lives are worthwhile.

    • #14
    • June 20, 2015, at 2:45 PM PDT
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  15. captainpower Inactive

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Charles Mark:If you keep saying the lives of the old and debilitated aren’t worth living, or telling the very sick that there’s no dignity in dying naturally then they will come to feel duty-bound to die. It’s grotesque.

    On the other hand, much of the fight against keeping the old and sick alive at any cost is simply a fight for the right to a natural death.

    A couple of years ago Dennis Prager did a fantastic interview with Katy Butler.

    Ms. Butler wrote a book about end-of-life care issues

    Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death Hardcover – September 10, 2013, by Katy Butler

    She contends that people need to know when to let go and that not only is it humane to the dead/dying, it is also humane to those they leave behind by avoiding burdening them with crushing debt.

    some quick googling turns up a few interviews with Ms. Butler.

    http://www.c-span.org/video/?313011-9/book-discussion-knocking-heavens-door

    http://www.c-span.org/video/?315533-3/book-discussion-knocking-heavens-door

    • #15
    • June 20, 2015, at 3:04 PM PDT
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  16. Profile Photo Member

    captainpower:

    Charles Mark:If you keep saying the lives of the old and debilitated aren’t worth living, or telling the very sick that there’s no dignity in dying naturally then they will come to feel duty-bound to die. It’s grotesque.

    Also, the old and sick are very expensive. We could solve all our entitlement problems if they would just choose to commit suicide rather than holding on to life for another 40 years after retirement.

    Is that a solution worth considering, I don’t think so, but I’m not convinced it won’t start to sound more and more sane as we descend the slippery slope of physician assisted suicide.

    You mean “as we descend the slippery slope of government control of the provision of medical care,” right?

    • #16
    • June 20, 2015, at 3:23 PM PDT
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  17. Jason Rudert Member

    *Years* before my grandmother reached the stage we call “end of life”, she had lost the ability to make a decision like this in a truly informed manner. She was keeping all of her money in her checking account, and my parents talked her into splitting it into a savings account to protect it. And they had this argument with her every 30-90 days until she convinced herself my mom was just trying to steal her money.

    So any scheme that involves people like this “choosing” to die bothers me. They can still argue–the stubbornness is still there–but sophistry and logic become indistinguishable a long time before the other organ systems start to fail.

    • #17
    • June 20, 2015, at 4:34 PM PDT
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  18. Randy Webster Member

    Why isn’t “My fellow citizens don’t owe me a $500k heart transplant” a rational decision? When my time comes, I’ll definitely be thinking about the cost of care. I’m not beggaring my wife to gain a few extra years of living in hospital waiting rooms.

    • #18
    • June 20, 2015, at 5:08 PM PDT
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  19. Bob Wainwright Member

    I don’t think suicide is always wrong, but the legalization of doctor involvement is not an attempt to make it easier to lessen the suffering of those who might contemplate suicide at the end of life, those who could just as easily find a way to make their exit without a doctor’s help. It’s an effort to radicalize the medical profession into the service of progressive social engineering (not to mention a way for politicians to grandstand and glory in the praise of ignorant media adulation.)

    • #19
    • June 20, 2015, at 5:29 PM PDT
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  20. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Jamal Rudert:*Years* before my grandmother reached the stage we call “end of life”, she had lost the ability to make a decision like this in a truly informed manner. She was keeping all of her money in her checking account, and my parents talked her into splitting it into a savings account to protect it. And they had this argument with her every 30-90 days until she convinced herself my mom was just trying to steal her money.

    So any scheme that involves people like this “choosing” to die bothers me. They can still argue–the stubbornness is still there–but sophistry and logic become indistinguishable a long time before the other organ systems start to fail.

    On the other hand, if, while they’re still capable of reasonably informed consent, they make out a living will, assign power of attorney, and so forth, and if later on, they can raise no cogent objections to their prior arrangements, it seems to me like they’ve already made their choice.

    Yeah, if they change their minds after they can no longer rationally communicate their wishes, that kinda sucks. And yeah, if you become mentally incompetent without filling out such documents, you’re left at the mercy of your relatives, and that can kinda suck, too. But I think it’s reasonable to respect the wishes people record before mental incompetence sets in, or, failing that, the wishes of their family, since family members do tend to have inside knowledge.

    • #20
    • June 20, 2015, at 5:40 PM PDT
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  21. Jason Rudert Member

    Good points, Midge, but I think this is one of those problems we are never going to solve. Because what you’re doing is trying to achieve an experience for the patient based on what they imagined dying would be like back when they were fifty. And they don’t get to do it over or try it a different way. How do you write down and explain how much pain you think you’re going to be willing to endure thirty years from now? How can you possibly know how much pain and trouble your suffering is actually going to cause your family? End-of-life directives are mostly fantasies.
    That said, I do agree with your criterion of major body systems failing, since that’s pretty objective.

    • #21
    • June 20, 2015, at 6:42 PM PDT
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  22. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Jamal Rudert:Good points, Midge, but I think this is one of those problems we are never going to solve. Because what you’re doing is trying to achieve an experience for the patient based on what they imagined dying would be like back when they were fifty. And they don’t get to do it over or try it a different way. How do you write down and explainhow much pain you think you’re going to be willing to endure thirty years from now?

    I don’t think we have to solve the problem, just come up with a reasonable compromise. And I think honoring prior wishes when new wishes cannot be made – or honoring family wishes when the patients’ wishes aren’t known – is a reasonable compromise.

    • #22
    • June 20, 2015, at 6:48 PM PDT
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  23. Profile Photo Member

    captainpower:Sorry if that’s too dark.

    Not too dark for me.

    I imagine a world where a cop talks a guy from jumping off a ledge and then gets sued for violating his constitutional right to kill himself.

    • #23
    • June 20, 2015, at 7:25 PM PDT
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  24. Barkha Herman Inactive

    1978740_763972013646486_2320872279407141761_n

    • #24
    • June 22, 2015, at 6:11 AM PDT
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  25. The Reticulator Member

    I’m not in favor of creating conflicts of interest for the medical profession.

    • #25
    • June 22, 2015, at 6:19 AM PDT
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  26. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive

    Bereket Kelile:

    “When someone is diagnosed as having less than six months to live, why shouldn’t they be given the choice to end their life on their own terms instead of enduring months of pain and suffering?”

    That’s a straightforward question, and it deserves an answer. After all, whose life is it anyway?

    Exactly.

    The problem, of course, is that once the issue is reduced to a subjective personal choice we are, for all intents and purposes, out of the suicide prevention business.

    Wrong.

    We care about the sick, the poor and the unemployed. We care about the heartbroken teenager, and the kids whose parents are going through an ugly divorce. Our heroes are the good Samaritans and the rescuers, those who place themselves at risk for others. Those who care. And if we deserve to be called a just and compassionate people, we will continue to not only care, but to intervene.

    Your thoughts?

    I’m sorry, was there supposed to have been an argument in there? All I found was a crass lumping in of “less than six months to live” with “broken hearted after a breakup,” all of it being sufficient to justify “intervention”—and let’s be clear; we’re talking about legal force here, not moral suasion by clergy, family, and friends.

    So my thoughts are: first learn to think. Then learn to construct an actual argument. Then make your case to the people affected, not the legislative.

    • #26
    • June 22, 2015, at 6:27 AM PDT
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  27. Barkha Herman Inactive

    Berket – whether you like it or not, the “choice” is not yours to give.

    We can all pretend that we have some control over it.

    • #27
    • June 22, 2015, at 6:29 AM PDT
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  28. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Jamal Rudert:End-of-life directives are mostly fantasies.

    This was my conclusion after watching the reality of life ending in my family. All of the very stern instructions we were given about the conditions under which my grandmother and mother wished to die seemed as relevant in the end as what kindergarteners tell you when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up.

    • #28
    • June 22, 2015, at 6:35 AM PDT
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  29. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Why suicide shouldn’t be a choice.

    The most fundamental rights are those that cannot be infringed, no matter how hard you try.

    For example, at the end of the day, one cannot put a stop to speech. Ban someone from the television and they’ll write a book. Burn their book and they’ll publish pamphlets. Destroy their printing press and they’ll write by hand. Cut off their hands and they’ll start to yell. Cut out their tongue and they’ll use morse code. Etc.

    It is the same with suicide. A determined person will find a way, no matter what obstacles you put in their way.

    Now, assisted suicide, that’s a different matter entirely.

    • #29
    • June 22, 2015, at 6:36 AM PDT
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  30. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Barkha Herman:1978740_763972013646486_2320872279407141761_n

    Funny, but I believe that suicide is legal in all but a very small number of countries, such as North Korea (where it’s the surviving family members who are prosecuted when someone kills themself.)

    • #30
    • June 22, 2015, at 6:39 AM PDT
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