Politics

"Terminal Illness Is a British Obsession"

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Controversy over physician assisted suicides is alive and well in Great Britain. Earlier this week it was reported that one of the country's premier conductors flew with his terminally-ill wife to Switzerland where they partook in a "lethal cocktail of barbiturates" together.

Via The New York Times:

Although friends who spoke to the British news media said Sir Edward was not known to have been terminally ill, they said he wanted to die with his ailing wife, who had been his partner for more than half a century.

The couple's children said in an interview with The London Evening Standard that on Tuesday of last week they accompanied their father, 85, and their mother, Joan, 74, on the flight to Zurich, where the Swiss group Dignitas helped arrange the suicides. On Friday, the children said, they watched, weeping, as their parents drank "a small quantity of clear liquid" before lying down on adjacent beds, holding hands.

Sounds peaceful. What could be better than being able to control the time, place, and circumstances of your own death?

Ludwig Minelli, founder of the Swiss euthanasia clinic Dignitas, that serviced the couple, said in an interview earlier this year with the Telegraph that suicide is a question of basic, human rights:

It's a right, a human right, without condition except capacity of discernment. I have a totally different attitude to suicide. I say suicide is a marvellous possibility given to a human being. Suicide is a very good possibility to escape a situation which you can't alter. It is not a condition to have a terminal illness. Terminal illness is a British obsession

A Gallup poll conducted in 2006 shows that almost 7 out of 10 Americans support physician assisted suicide. Perhaps we don't share the British obsession?

Gallup poll

Reason coverage on physician assisted suicide here and here.

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  1. As health care gets less affordable, let’s see how much the number of sick old people ‘volunteering’ for suicide goes up.

  2. If some sick old person has the ‘right’ of suicide, but stubbornly refuses to exercise that right, we may anticipate the pressure – why are you imposing all this expense on your relatives and/or the taxpayers – when you could your own quietus make with a lethal injection.

    In the Netherlands, medical personnel have sometimes been known to skip right over the whole ‘consent to suicide’ thing.

  3. I’m a libertarian. If I ask somebody to help me off myself for any reason whatsoevr they shouldn’t be prosecuted fo saying yes. It’s my damned body.

    I’ll work out the details of the legislation over lunch tomorrow. Helping kids commit suicide will remain illegal.

  4. In the Netherlands, medical personnel have sometimes been known to skip right over the whole ‘consent to suicide’ thing.

    Evidence?

  5. If some sick old person has the ‘right’ of suicide, but stubbornly refuses to exercise that right,…

    You, on the other hand, have absolutely no trouble denying them that right if they do want to excercise it.

  6. Actually, when it comes to me exercising that right, by the way, I will take care of it myself.

    I will try to make any such decision before I am physically unable to do so. Barring a crippling injury, that is.

    I would hate to impose the moral burden to have to make that decision about my life on anyone else.

  7. gee, this vein looks plump

  8. If you’re done living you should be able to legally sign off. Maybe you could help someone with your organs on the way out. Your body is your property, do with your property whatever the hell you want.

  9. Helping kids commit suicide will remain illegal.

    So they’d have to wait ’til they were 18?

  10. If i were a climate scientist i would look at the upward tick in poeple against assisted suicide and conclude that by 2020 500% will be against assisted suicide.

  11. I have no problem with assisted suicide in theory, but I don’t trust our society or government with it in practice. It’s too easy for “I don’t think my life is worth living and I want to die” to become “We don’t think your life is useful and want to kill you.”

  12. So they’d have to wait ’til they were 18?

    Yep, but with me writing the laws they’ll also have the option of drowning their sorrow in the local pub where an older, but still attractive barmaid will take pity on him, take him up to her flat and teach him that life is indeed worth living.

    As you can tell, I’ve thought through all of the ramifications.

  13. Isaac Bartram, you can read about infant euthanasia in the Netherlands here:

    Groningen Protocol

  14. Link didn’t work, but Kevin P. beat me to it anyway.

  15. So what’s the over/under on when someone will challenge the constitutionality of anti-suicide laws, citing Roe v. Wade as precedent?

  16. Britain is a sad country.

    As far as infant euthanasia, I don’t see why that’s so much worse than late-term abortion. To prevent a lifetime of suffering seems to me to be a better justification for something like this rather than some whore’s “choice.”

  17. The couple had a son they named Caractacus. I am guessing that they were big Ian Fleming fans.

    I know, it’s irrelevant. But Dick Hoste showed up so I figured the thread was heading off the rails anyway.

  18. Wesley Smith points out some embarrassing admissions in a pro-euthanasia memoir by a Dutch doctor.

    ‘As far as infant euthanasia, I don’t see why that’s so much worse than late-term abortion.’

    How true! So let’s treat the two the same.

    Use the treatment of just-born infants as the yardstick by which to measure the rights of late-term babies in the womb.

    The relevant standard for born infants is set down in federal and state law. Federal policy, in the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, says that legal personhood status (for purposes of federal law) attaches *no later* than emergence from the womb. Companion laws on the state level have similar principles. President Obama said he would have voted, on the Illinois level, for a law like the federal born-alive law.

    So there seems to be a consensus on behalf of the rights of born-alive infants. If there’s no relevant difference between the just-born and the about-to-be-born, let us protect the latter as well as the former.

  19. Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love used his guaranteed solemn right to hit the ‘suicide button’ on several occasions only to be tricked into living again.

    freedom doesn’t stop where death begins. if i really want to die, who are you to say i can’t do it comfortably and quickly with the aid of some medical professional?

    Dr. Kevorkian, while being one of the greatest butt-end of jokes, also happens to be one of the greatest proponents of liberty.
    asshat celebrities should’ve waved free kevorkian banners instead of free tibet ones during the nineties. damn richard gere to hell.

  20. So there seems to be a consensus on behalf of the rights of born-alive infants. If there’s no relevant difference between the just-born and the about-to-be-born, let us protect the latter as well as the former.

    Do you go back to the moment of conception?

    It seems like there’s going to be a line drawn somewhere, and it’s going to be somewhat arbitrary. Leaving the womb seems as good a place to draw the line as any.

    But that’s not my position. I think that babies who are going to have a lifetime of suffering should be put under with the consent of the parents.

  21. ‘Do you go back to the moment of conception?’

    Indeed I do; how did you guess? 🙂

    ‘Leaving the womb seems as good a place to draw the line as any.’

    But even before then, they have characteristics which many folks on this form cite as sufficient to establish human rights – like a brain and nervous system. Not to mention memories.

    The only theory which makes the birth canal the dividing line between the right to life and the reverse is the ‘trespass’ theory, by which a mother has the right to evict even an admitted human being from her womb. But if you use trespass principles, then remember that when throwing someone off your land, you can’t kill them (I’m talking about a guest overstaying his welcome, not a robber under a ‘make my day’ scenario). So why should you be able to use deadly force to evict a ‘guest’ from your womb?

  22. many folks on this *forum*

  23. ‘I think that babies who are going to have a lifetime of suffering should be put under with the consent of the parents.’

    I’m sure there are actually parents who sincerely think like this – in terms of ‘sparing’ the child by killing it. This is sincere, albeit mistaken.

    But let us not assume that *all* child-killings have such a motive. If we kill a disabled person, it’s possible that we’re not trying to put him out of *his* misery; we’re trying to put him out of *our* misery.

  24. I’m sure there are actually parents who sincerely think like this – in terms of ‘sparing’ the child by killing it. This is sincere, albeit mistaken.

    Why is it mistaken? You can’t imagine circumstances under which you wouldn’t want to live?

    But let us not assume that *all* child-killings have such a motive. If we kill a disabled person, it’s possible that we’re not trying to put him out of *his* misery; we’re trying to put him out of *our* misery.

    Since you’re here I assume you’re a libertarian. What about people who need the support of the state to live and don’t have relatives willing or able to provide medical care. Ayn Rand, and some others here, would probably say let’em die.

  25. ‘Since you’re here I assume you’re a libertarian.’

    Chicago Tom is also here; is *he* a libertarian too?

    What about MNG?

    I actually believe in a certain modest degree of forcible redistribution to help the truly desperate – emergency room patients, etc. In other words, in H&R terms, I am a fascist oppressor.

    I’m still more libertarian than the American political mainstream, but frankly that’s a very low bar to clear.

  26. ‘Why is it mistaken? You can’t imagine circumstances under which you wouldn’t want to live?’

    We were discussing a situation in which parents decided, on the child’s behalf, that the child wouldn’t want to ‘live this way.’ I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say what the child wants or not, and anyway, even under a legalized-suicide regime, only adults would be free to ‘choose’ suicide, not children.

    We have parents writing ‘goodbye, cruel world’ notes, signing the kid’s name, and then killing the kid.

    In an abortion discussion (admittedly on a university campus, so it was understandably insane), one person seriously said that it was a good thing for an anti-gay woman to abort her baby (who, by hypothesis, had the ‘gay gene’) in order to spare the kid a lifetime of homophobic oppression. Talk about a conflict of interest!

  27. Sounds peaceful. What could be better than being able to control the time, place, and circumstances of your own death?

    That actually sounds like one of the more lame ways to croak.

    Weepy relatives, and they are all English, too? Bleh. A Sid Barrett inspired nightmare more like it.

    Better ways?

    John Entwistle got it about right.

    Hell, blowing up in the middle of the kasbah would be more preferable
    than how this couple went.

    As for me, however it happens, if I don’t get a Darwin out of it, every one who knows me will be sorely disappointed.

  28. If we want to respect the kid’s ‘right to die,’ why not just wait until his or her 18th birthday so he can make the ‘decision’ himself?

    Because this isn’t about autonomy and individual rights. Whatever may be the case on the Libertarian Happy Island, applying a concept of legalized suicide in the real world would open up so many avenues of ‘abuse’ that I expect the abuses would threaten to become the norm.

    Just to be clear, even a fully intelligent, non-pressured, autonomous healthy adult who wants to off himself should not have a recognized ‘right’ to do so in my view, although in practice such persons will be able to find a way to shuffle off this mortal coil with or without legal permission. The weaker members of society – children, disabled people, Uncle Gus lying in his hospital bed while relatives cluck their tongues at his selfish refusal to drink the poison being offered by kindly Doctor Death.

  29. . . . are the ones who will be threatened by a ‘right to suicide.’

  30. “It’s a right, a human right, without condition except capacity of discernment.”

    Whatever is not forbidden will be made mandatory.

  31. a concept of legalized suicide drug use in the real world would open up so many avenues of ‘abuse’ that I expect the abuses would threaten to become the norm.

    Yawn. Arguing from effect is boring.

  32. Isaac Bartram, you wrote:

    You, on the other hand, have absolutely no trouble denying them that right if they do want to excercise it.

    how so? How many people get prosecuted for committing suicide? How many others get prosecuted for trying to commit suicide?

  33. suicide should be legal in all cases, assisted or not.
    in the UK they do take care of some terminally ill patients with a delicious beverage known as the Brompton Cocktail (heroin/methadone/dilaudid+cocaine/meth/amphetmine+alcohol/gin).

  34. kim luisi

    Read Mad Max’s comments and you will clearly see that he is unhappy that “How many people get prosecuted for committing suicide? How many others get prosecuted for trying to commit suicide?” are questions that anyone would ask.

  35. We were discussing a situation in which parents decided, on the child’s behalf, that the child wouldn’t want to ‘live this way.’ I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say what the child wants or not, and anyway, even under a legalized-suicide regime, only adults would be free to ‘choose’ suicide, not children.

    If you had a child and the doctor told you that child would have a lifespan of 5 years, during which he would endure constant agonizing pain, and you wouldn’t even consider what could be done to prevent that then I think that’s pretty messed up on your part.

  36. Why is physician-assisted suicide even necessary?

    Studies have proven that buying a handgun increases the risk of suicide, so if those suffering people need to die, just sell them a handgun for a penny.

    freedom doesn’t stop where death begins. if i really want to die, who are you to say i can’t do it comfortably and quickly with the aid of some medical professional?

    Why can’t you buy a handgun instead of involving a doctor?

  37. What happened between 1950 and 1996 to change the polls?

  38. SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!

  39. A key difference between drug use and suicide is that the latter is inherently deadly, and intended to be so. The drug-user is generally not *trying* to end a human life (his own), whatever one might think of drug use. A puff on a joint or a shot of something heavier probably won’t kill you, no matter what you might think of the advisability of that sort of behavior.

  40. Some Guy,

    Just to show how nice I am, I won’t go Godwin on you.

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  42. I fail to see how your Godwin has any bearing on the scenario I put forth. If you honestly can’t see the difference between parents wanting to prevent a child from having a short life filled with nothing but pain and the government ordering the deaths of “undesirables”, then you should seek help.

  43. ‘you should seek help.’

    Your definition of ‘help’ seems to be mercy killing, so no thanks. And please don’t volunteer to ‘help’ me, either.

    The 1920 book which inspired the National Socialist mercy-killing program was filled with of compassionate rhetoric about hard cases. Check this out:

    ‘The strategy used by [authors] Binding and Hoche is a clear instance of the technique of “gradualism” as a way to accomplish the perversion of the truth without allowing their distortion to be so easily discovered. In this
    respect the authors follow a path all too common today in justifyingn mercy killing and assisted suicide. The first case discussed is that of a young woman dying a horrible death from throat cancer that would make anyone sympathetic to her cry for mercy killing or assisted suicide (except someone familiar with palliative care and pain control). This was
    followed by less heartrending cancer cases, then by mentally retarded children, mentally ill adults (all in institutions), physically handicapped children, and finally bedwetters! All of these were considered an economic burden on the State or unfit on eugenic grounds. Apparently
    this little book was widely read and quoted, even in medical journals, and
    was mentioned by some of the defendants at the Nuremberg trials to
    justify or explain their horrendous experiments on prisoners and
    sometimes their execution.’

  44. That’s a very nice slippery slope argument to make as long as you don’t distinguish between the parents and the state.

  45. I have no problem with assisted suicide in theory, but I don’t trust our society or government with it in practice. It’s too easy for “I don’t think my life is worth living and I want to die” to become “We don’t think your life is useful and want to kill you.”

    Why?

    Somehow the right to drink alcohol has not created a situation where the government straps people down and force feeds them alcohol.

    Somehow the right to have an abortion has not created a situation where the government [our government] abducts women and forcibly aborts their fetuses.

    I am all for slippery-slope arguments, and often will anticipate the way a precedent will be abused in the future, but this isn’t one of those cases, for the simple reason that the policy should be built around consent. Slippery slopes come into play in policies where consent is taken away, because in the absence of consent the state’s overarching bad faith will eventually express itself; policies that rely on consent and give power to the individual militate against the slippery slope.

    Mercy killings don’t arise from a policy granting autonomy only to those capable of consent. There are mercy killings everywhere, and not merely in jurisdictions allowing assisted suicide.

    It’s pretty hard for me to see how a policy allowing one to file a legal document attesting to one’s desire for suicide could be abused to kill handicapped toddlers. How do you get a handicapped toddler or someone in a coma to sign a legal document?

  46. I don’t see why libertarians view suicide as a “right.” It’s irresponsible. When a person dies involuntarily, say through an old fashined stroke, all sorts of impositions are made on other people. Someone has to sort through their property, someone has to schlep the corpse to the undertaker, etc. Sure, the people who do all this usually get paid for it in the end, but even arranging those payments can be a hassle. And when there’s not enough funds in the decedent’s estate, someone is either going to get stiffed or have to go to the government to get paid, which means we’re all subsidizing the process. The only reason those impostions aren’t illegal is because the act that caused them was involuntary.

    Now, some conductor can’t man up to the fact that his wife is going the way of all flesh, and he throws the responsibilites of his life to other people. How is that a right?

  47. What could be better than being able to control the time, place, and circumstances of your own death?

    Having some courage.

  48. According to Abdul, you are obliged to go on living, for the good of the collective.

    Hey, at least it’s a new twist on things.

  49. Thomas Szasz, anti-psychiatrist and all-around libertarian bass-ass, had an interesting take on the “physician-assisted” part of it.

    He said that the suicide issue is just a consequence of our drug laws. If morphine were legal, would we need a doctor to “assist” us in dying?

    So, he was pro-suicide, but found it ridiculous that doctors were the ones given the power to grant it to people.

    “We avoid confronting problems of living as moral problems and choose instead to treat them as medical problems. It is not a good choice.” –Thomas Szasz

  50. Now, some conductor can’t man up to the fact that his wife is going the way of all flesh, and he throws the responsibilites of his life to other people. How is that a right?

    Hey, just don’t assume those responsibilities. Problem solved.

    Trustees and lawyers get paid from estates, you know. Generally death is quite a good thing for those “poor, poor souls” who have to settle even a modest estate.

    If I die with no estate, just treat me as road kill. It’s no skin off my ass, believe me. Since I don’t see a lot of people complaining right now about the intolerable burden on their lives created by road kill, I conclude that your whining about the fact that suicide leaves behind a dead body to get rid off is overblown. Harvest the parts or something.

  51. Fluffy,

    You’re obliged to a lot of things for the good of the collective. You can’t drive drunk, you can’t litter, you can’t neglect your kids. And to all those things, I add you can’t stick other people with your bills and your checkbook and say: “figure out what I’ve got to pay and pay it for me. If I’m short, too bad, I’m taking a dirt nap.”

    Every day, someone somewhere is dealing with the problems of a terminally ill spouse or child. Of course it’s not easy. But having the courage to face it is far superior to killing yourself.

  52. He said that the suicide issue is just a consequence of our drug laws. If morphine were legal, would we need a doctor to “assist” us in dying?

    So, he was pro-suicide, but found it ridiculous that doctors were the ones given the power to grant it to people.

    This is a good point, but it might be your preference to involve someone with some familiarity with what they were doing. You might arrive at the moment in question with no experience with morphine and need a hand from a professional. After all, I can buy insecticide and apply it to my own house if I want to, but I generally don’t.

    And if the drug laws didn’t exist, some enterprising soul would probably sell a suicide kit – but that person would need a legal safe harbor to do even that, I imagine. So we can’t just get rid of the drug laws, we need the anti-suicide laws to go too.

  53. Trustees and lawyers get paid from estates, you know. Generally death is quite a good thing for those “poor, poor souls” who have to settle even a modest estate.

    I acknowledged as much. However, just becuase your compensated after the fact doesn’t mean you have a right to make the imposition. I can’t impose a service on you even if I compensate you afterwards for twice the cost of the service.

  54. And to all those things, I add you can’t stick other people with your bills and your checkbook and say: “figure out what I’ve got to pay and pay it for me. If I’m short, too bad, I’m taking a dirt nap.”

    You know what makes this really, really stupid? I can do this while remaining alive.

    And you don’t have to assume this responsibility if you don’t want it. Just walk away.

    My creditors will employ their agents to fight over whatever scraps are available, but that’s part of being a creditor. No one who lends money is under the impression that their counterparties will live forever. They have to expend effort to collect from living persons who don’t or won’t or can’t pay, they can do the same for the dead. Big deal. Seriously, is this all you’ve got? “It’s inconvenient for a crematoria to dun an estate”?

    But having the courage to face it is far superior to killing yourself.

    What you feel is superior isn’t important.

  55. However, just becuase your compensated after the fact doesn’t mean you have a right to make the imposition. I can’t impose a service on you even if I compensate you afterwards for twice the cost of the service.

    Then don’t be a lawyer or trustee. Problem solved.

  56. But having the courage to face it is far superior to killing yourself.

    I could say that having the courage to end it all with dignity is preferable to grinding on pointlessly. But it wouldn’t offer any more compelling an argument than yours, Abdul. Wanna try justifying your statement a little?

  57. ‘Somehow the right to drink alcohol has not created a situation where the government straps people down and force feeds them alcohol.’

    It might get to that point if we’re ever in a situation where ‘persuading’ grandma to drink some malt liquor would save her relatives, and the taxpayers, some money. We’d probably start seeing a jump in the rate of ‘voluntary’ drinking among bedridden geriatrics.

    ‘Somehow the right to have an abortion has not created a situation where the government [our government] abducts women and forcibly aborts their fetuses. . . .

    ‘Slippery slopes come into play in policies where consent is taken away . . .’

    In that case, the slippery slope has already arrived in the case of abortion. Unborn children are being killed without their own consent. That seems to me like the *bottom* of a slippery slope. Yet it’s possible to slide even lower, as indicated by those who advocate the mercy-killing of newborns.

    And if we’re talking about compulsory abortions, American taxpayers help fund a UN agency which works hand-in-glove with the Chinese government’s compulsory abortion policy:

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jul/09070709.html

    ‘It’s pretty hard for me to see how a policy allowing one to file a legal document attesting to one’s desire for suicide could be abused to kill handicapped toddlers. How do you get a handicapped toddler or someone in a coma to sign a legal document?’

    Such a ‘reform’ could well lead to a political climate in which suicide-by-proxy becomes more acceptable.

    We’ve seen how just about any oppressive policy can be justified in the name of The Children (TM).

    High and oppressive taxes – it’s For the Children!

    Persecution of adults for private vices – it’s For the Children!

    The mercy-killing advocates would add: Kill disabled children – it’s For the Children!

    ‘[Szasz] was pro-suicide’

    No, no no – he was pro-*choice!* 🙂

  58. However, just becuase your compensated after the fact doesn’t mean you have a right to make the imposition. I can’t impose a service on you even if I compensate you afterwards for twice the cost of the service.

    Seriously, you’re aware that trust services is an industry where people expend millions of dollars to acquire a customer base, and fight with other providers of services for market share. Right? That I can’t just look your name up in the phone book and declare you my trustee and force you to undertake the job?

  59. Such a ‘reform’ could well lead to a political climate in which suicide-by-proxy becomes more acceptable.

    Well, if your argument is: “If we acknowledge Fluffy’s autonomy as a human being, in a different political debate at some point in the future some might advocate that the autonomy of completely different people be reduced,” then quite honestly my answer has to be “Too bad.”

    Because basically that’s arguing that we have to tangibly and concretely restrict liberty now to avoid potential and abstract future abuses. And I would say we’ll fight today’s abuses today and tomorrow’s abuses tomorrow.

  60. Seriously, you’re aware that trust services is an industry where people expend millions of dollars to acquire a customer base, and fight with other providers of services for market share. Right?

    I’m aware there are lots of industries that clean up messes left by other people. That doesn’t mean leaving a mess for other people to clean up is okay.

  61. What you feel is superior isn’t important.

    And Hugh said: I could say that having the courage to end it all with dignity is preferable to grinding on pointlessly. But it wouldn’t offer any more compelling an argument than yours, Abdul. Wanna try justifying your statement a little?

    Both are fair points. But I think Hugh acknowledges the fundamental problem with the “right” to suicide. This is far from a self-evident right or moral good. Just because you feel suicide is a nice option for some people doesn’t seem like a stronger argument than my feeling that it’s not a good option for anyone.

    Now I’m back up that arugment by pointing out that suicide imposes costs on other people. Fluffy wants to minimize those costs, but you haven’t found a way to deny the fact that those costs exist.

  62. You know what makes this really, really stupid? I can do this while remaining alive.

    And you don’t have to assume this responsibility if you don’t want it. Just walk away.

    The difference between you trying to lay off all your responsiblities on someone else while you’re alive, and doing it through suicide, is that you can be punished for imposing costs on someone while you’re alive. Those punishments deter most people. True, not all. Some people go down the path of bankruptcy voluntarily or so recklessly that it might as well be voluntary. But when their property is seized, they usually see the wisdom of acting more responsibly.

  63. Abdul,

    A terminally ill patient imposes the same or higher costs on their loved ones. A person who wants to die and isn’t allowed to imposes costs on their loved ones.

    My right to use my body as I see fit is not subject to your evaluation of what is cheaper.

    The right to choose to die is the same right as the right to choose not to die. To deny one is to deny both.

  64. Now I’m back up that arugment by pointing out that suicide imposes costs on other people. Fluffy wants to minimize those costs, but you haven’t found a way to deny the fact that those costs exist.

    Sure I have. I have pointed out over and over that you don’t have to assume those costs if you don’t want to.

    Some relative of yours dies and you don’t want to bury them or clean up their estate? Then say, “Fuck it, I’m not doing this.” No one can make you. I fail to see how you can argue for “imposed costs” when no one can impose costs on you if you don’t volunteer to assume them.

    And don’t even come back to me with an argument about “social costs” because that’s just the same old collectivist crap I reject in every other area, so I’ll reject it here too.

  65. Some relative of yours dies and you don’t want to bury them or clean up their estate? Then say, “Fuck it, I’m not doing this.” No one can make you.

    Let me get this straight: if your spouse or child commits suicide right now, no one can force you to report it? No one can force you to have the body disposed of? You won’t be billed for the costs of the disposal? I think we know that you can’t just walk away.

    Now, there are people who commit suicide or die without any close relatives, but then the local government absorbs the costs. As I’ve said before, we’re forced to subsidize those costs. In the case of a natural death, the imposition wasn’t voluntary. PResumably, the decedent would have lived forever if possible. But in the case of a suicide, the imposition of costs on others is voluntary.

    I’ll grant you that this particular conductor went about committing suicide more responsibly than most, but it still imposed costs on others.

  66. This is the only treatment option available under the NHS for many medical conditions. But seriously, I wish more people would commit suicide.

  67. A terminally ill patient imposes the same or higher costs on their loved ones. A person who wants to die and isn’t allowed to imposes costs on their loved ones.

    Sugarfree, the difference between a suicide and a terminally ill person is voluntariness. The terminally ill person is not choosing to impose costs on loved ones. If they could choose, they wouldn’t be terminally ill at all. The suicide is choosing to put problems off on others.

    You’re correct that a person who wants to commit suicide, but can’t, might impose costs on loved ones. However, that living person is choosing to make others miserable, and that choice can be deterred.

  68. Now I’ll back up that arugment by pointing out that suicide imposes costs on other people.

    Abdul, everything we do imposes costs on other people in terms of time and effort and lost opportunity. But we still act, with the calculated belief that the benefits outweigh the costs.

    Suicide is not qualitatively different. Leaving a body and a bunch of stuff and perhaps a mountain of debt is an imposition to be sure, but engaging in economic activity is a risky proposition, suicide or no.

    Lenders charge interest on debts because there is an inherent risk to lending money, even if the borrower doesn’t skip town by cutting his wrists. As for the other impositions, institutions will arise to mitigate them. The only reason we don’t have them now is the stigma surrounding suicide.

    If we treat suicide honestly as the valid human choice that it is, we can develop methods to deal with it rather than treating it like the elephant in the room.

  69. A terminally ill patient imposes the same or higher costs on their loved ones. A person who wants to die and isn’t allowed to imposes costs on their loved ones.

    Why involve a doctor?

    You have heard of handguns, right ?

    It has been proven that buying a handgun increases the risk of suicide.

  70. Why involve a doctor?

    I said nothing about a doctor. The physician-assisted part is easily solved by getting rid of the stupid drug laws.

    Although nothing I believe would preclude doctors being able to help patients die. Don’t force them; don’t force them not to.

  71. Abdul,

    Everyone I know might be happier if I lived in abject slavery to them. Utilitarianism gets you nowhere with me or most anyone else on this board.

    I don’t live for the pleasure and comfort of others. If I kill myself, it will be hard on my loved ones (maybe), but the hardship of others is not my problem to solve.

  72. Because it’s so difficult to find a car and a garage. Suicide is easy if you aren’t a total retard.

  73. Somehow the right to drink alcohol has not created a situation where the government straps people down and force feeds them alcohol.
    Because I’m generally capable of resisting any such attempt. In the case of euthanasia, I have to trust the State to not take advantage of my helplessness.

    And I don’t trust them.

  74. A Gallup poll conducted in 2006 shows that almost 7 out of 10 Americans support physician assisted suicide. Perhaps we don’t share the British obsession?

    I’m not really sure that your last sentence is correct, since the poll question specifically refers to “a person has a disease that cannot be cured and is living in severe pain” in its most permissive form.

    I doubt that support is nearly that high for people who are depressed because their health is failing. And, yes, I went through just that with a family member who started having heart attacks after over eighty years of near perfect health.

  75. As I’ve said before, we’re forced to subsidize those costs. In the case of a natural death, the imposition wasn’t voluntary. PResumably, the decedent would have lived forever if possible. But in the case of a suicide, the imposition of costs on others is voluntary.

    Since everyone dies a grand total of one time, everyone imposes identical costs. [I still don’t agree that these costs are imposed, but let’s set that aside for one moment.]

    If everyone imposes identical costs, it’s absurd to argue to me that suicide should be prevented because of the costs it imposes.

    In addition, by definition anti-suicide laws can only be enforced against suicides who FAIL. The ones who succeed are beyond punishment. But the suicides who fail haven’t actually imposed any costs. So you want to punish them for costs they didn’t impose.

    I’ll grant you that this particular conductor went about committing suicide more responsibly than most, but it still imposed costs on others.

    No, it didn’t. It is fucking moronic to say that something I pay for “imposes costs” on someone. If I hire a lawyer and a trustee and arrange for the settlement of my estate, I have imposed costs on NO ONE. The lawyer and the trustee MAKE MONEY BY GETTING WORK. Claiming that I have imposed costs on them is like claiming that I impose costs on farmers when I buy food. It’s absolutely idiotic.

  76. “It has been proven that buying a handgun increases the risk of suicide.”

    No it hasn’t. A correlation has been demonstrated between ahving a handgun and successful suicide. I would guess that is because a handgun is a convenient and effective way to off yourself. The act of buying a gun does not make an otherwise happy and sane person more likely to kill himself.

    Abdul, your argument is not very good. Someone who is terminally ill and wants to commit suicide is probably going to die soon in any case. These burdens on others you bring up exist in any case. If it is a planned, assisted suicide, then there is also the opportunity to make sure the estate is in reasonable shape and affairs are settled before it happens. In many cases it could be a far better situation for the survivors than if the person just dies of the disease. What you are saying might be more true in the case of a more conventional suicide caused by mental problems, but no law is going to change how that plays out.
    By the same logic, you should say that it should be against the law to poorly plan your estate, or not make a will or not to have enough retirement savings.

    If there is any natural, fundamental right that people have, it is to kill oneself.

  77. Physician assisted suicide in Great Britain would involve the socialized National Health Service. So anyone wanting to commit suicide with the help of a doctor is likely to die of natural causes before there’s a doctor available to help kill him.

  78. I believe the feds should allow states to allow assisted suicide but the feds should not be involved in the individuals decison making process.

  79. libertarians view suicide as a right because we should have a right to our life (and death), a right to our own bodies. if we don’t own ourselves then we are property of someone else. that could be the government or a church or whatever means of control that try to enslave mankind. the rights are inalienable and are self evident and fits in with the concept of individual rights and private property rights.

  80. Why do these comment threads usually go in directions that bore me instead of discussing what I find interesting in the blog entry: What caused those polls to change over that period, and stay stable since then? Instead it’s as if commenters here were the ones being polled on the issue. Whoopee, you can get those opinions anywhwere.

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