Suicide

Begging to Die

The curiously circumscribed nature of the suicide right recognized by Canada's Supreme Court

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According to the U.S. Supreme Court, people do not have a fundamental right to kill themselves. The Supreme Court of Canada used to agree, but last week it changed its mind.

Both courts still agree on one thing, however: The government has the authority to determine when and how you may take your life. The curiously circumscribed nature of the right recognized by the Canadian Supreme Court reflects a willingness to surrender our most basic liberty—to be or not to be—in exchange for an official stamp of approval that free people should not need.

The Canadian Supreme Court concluded that criminal penalties for assisting suicide "unjustifiably infringe" on "the right to life, liberty and security of the person," but only "to the extent that they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition…that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition." Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, which have statutes that allow physicians to help patients kill themselves, likewise have strictly defined the circumstances in which suicide is acceptable.

It is not hard to see why judges, voters, and legislators would be sympathetic to people in the situation described by the Canadian Supreme Court. If I had a grievous and irremediable medical condition that caused intolerable suffering, they think, I would like to have the option of dying painlessly at a time of my own choosing, and I might need other people's help to do that.

One of the plaintiffs in the Canadian case provided compelling testimony to that effect. "I live in apprehension that my death will be slow, difficult, unpleasant, painful, undignified and inconsistent with the values and principles I have tried to live by," said Gloria Taylor, who died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease) in 2012. "What I fear is a death that negates, as opposed to concludes, my life. I do not want to die slowly, piece by piece. I do not want to waste away unconscious in a hospital bed. I do not want to die wracked with pain."

It truly is outrageous that the state would try to prevent someone in Gloria Taylor's position from ending her own life on her on terms. But why is strictly regulated "physician-assisted death" the only alternative that any government has seen fit to allow?

The state has a legitimate role in distinguishing between assisted suicide and murder, which requires some sort of verifiable agreement and perhaps proof of mental competence if there is any serious question about that. But why must the process be overseen by physicians, state-appointed gatekeepers who certify that each supplicant has what the government recognizes as a good reason to kill himself?

One reason is practical: Doctors have special access to the drugs that are most suitable for suicide. As the late psychiatric gadfly Thomas Szasz observed, drug prohibition goes a long way toward explaining the clamor for physician-assisted suicide.

As Szasz also pointed out, mandating the involvement of physicians serves a psychological function by disguising a moral judgment as a medical one. That impulse is apparent from two decades of polling on this issue.

Since 1997, the Gallup Poll has found that most Americans support physician-assisted suicide. But support is substantially higher when respondents are asked whether a doctor should be allowed to "end the patient's life by some painless means" than when they are asked whether a doctor should be allowed to "assist the patient to commit suicide."

That gap, which has ranged from 10 to 19 percentage points, suggests that many Americans would rather not take responsibility for their own deaths. They prefer to trust the experts. But doctors have no special knowledge or training that enables them to say when a life should end, and the law should not pretend that they do.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Q. Does failing to hand over your wallet to an armed robber count as assisted suicide?

    A. Only if the robber has a medical license.

    1. Equating ‘pressure’ of costs with force is an old proggie tactic.

        1. What isn’t, old man?

          1. “What isn’t, old man?”

            Wait, Fist of Etiquette is old?
            How did this happen?
            When was FoE born/become a sentient being?
            Has FoE been vaccinated?
            Why am I the last to read these types of things?
            Where is Judge Napolitano?

            1. All those questions and more will be answered when you visit my website. Registration is free but you will need to provide a valid credit card for, uh, age verification.

      1. A proggie favorite: a hungry man is not really a free man.

        Very similar to ‘a man facing steep medical bills is not a free man.’

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  2. Looks like the collective condemnation of Islam and Muslims, common even here on a site devoted to individualism, has born some ugly and foreseeable up in Chapel Hill. This is exactly why those leftists were concerned with such denunciations in the wake of the Paris shootings.

    1. Hate speech is not free speech, is it Bo?

      1. I don’t give a fig about ‘hate speech,’ I’m talking about the sickness of collective judgments.

        1. I don’t support a restriction on any type of speech. But I also don’t support the kind of collective condemnation that motivates actors like this. The responsibility for this act is the killers fully. But his action is a reminder of where this collective ‘logic’ can go.

          1. “I don’t support a restriction on any type of speech. The responsibility for this act is the killers fully.”

            You should have stopped right there.

            There is a subtle difference between assigning collective guilt and legitimate criticisms of culture.

            Also this: “Looks like the collective condemnation of Islam and Muslims, common even here on a site devoted to individualism, has born some ugly and foreseeable up in Chapel Hill.” appears to be assigning collective guilt. There is no need to include criticism common even here on a site devoted to individualism with ‘consequences’ unless you mean to say that there is a causal relationship.

            1. The causal relationship is between this type of thinking and this kind of act. This cretin didn’t do what he did ‘because’ of the ‘influence’ of ‘hate speech.’ He did it because he bought into this warped collective logic, a logic which sadly is not uncommon even here.

              “There is a subtle difference between assigning collective guilt and legitimate criticisms of culture.”

              Sometimes so subtle as to be imperceptible and intangible.

            2. There is a subtle difference between assigning collective guilt and legitimate criticisms of culture.

              Show me a stereotype, and I’ll show you a grain of truth.

        2. I’m talking about the sickness of collective judgments.

          So you have repented from doing this yourself with SOCONZ!? Talk about epic projection.

          1. You seem to have never actually read what I’ve written here about SoCons (such as that my parents and fellow church members are among them, and that they’re largely fine people I just happen to disagree with on key issues).

            But perhaps simplifying things helps you get through life easier.

            1. So if you know some of the collectivized and think they are generally fine people, all is good? Bizarre.

              Simplifying things, instead of twisting them into illogical knots IS a better way to go through life. You just keep telling yourself it is, like, totally different when you do it.

              1. Simplifying things, instead of twisting them into illogical knots IS a better way to go through life.

                Yep. You take a complex problem and break it into simpler and simpler pieces until it is easy to solve, not the other way around.

              2. I don’t collectivize them, you’re projecting your tendencies

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    1. I guess that rules out suicide by heroin overdose.

  4. Wait, wait, the Canadian Nazgul are circumcised?

  5. support is substantially higher when respondents are asked whether a doctor should be allowed to “end the patient’s life by some painless means” than when they are asked whether a doctor should be allowed to “assist the patient to commit suicide.”

    Indeed. I’ll wager support is even higher (at least in some parts of the country) when respondents are asked whether a doctor should be allowed to “gently place the patient into the merciful arms of the Lord.”

    1. “”gently place the patient into the merciful arms of the Lord.”

      That is good. You could go as far as you want in a career in funeral director or hospice care

      1. *** quietly meets with family in private room ***

        1. If your firm was like this you’d get my business

          1. I was hoping for something more like this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LClTjcyNJSI

    2. It actually has more to do with the enduring popularity of M.A.S.H.

    3. Awwww YEAHHHH Praise Jesus!!!!

  6. Brian Williams has the right (and ability) to commit career suicide.

    1. Yes, and like most of the suicidal there were many attempts before finally achieving success.

    2. Didn’t the media assist w/o a medical license?

  7. I guess we don’t own our bodies after all. They are the temple of God. Ergo God owns our bodies. And so…the gods, our overseers see how we must live and die.
    Crazy shit, that. But that’s what we deal with.

    1. Your body belongs to Jesus. Your body belongs to the collective.

      Two sides of the same ‘you don’t own yourself’ coin.

      1. The Will of the People is simply the modern equivalent of the Divine Right of the King.

        God has been replaced by The People.

      2. No no, Jesus owns your soul. The collective only owns the container.

        1. Your heart belongs to Jesus but your ass belongs to R. Lee Ermey.

  8. How can you punish someone who kills themselves in a non-state sanctioned way?
    do you cuff the body?
    Do the police still shoot you if you have a weapon anywhere near your corpse?
    Do the cops kill your dog in the ensuing investigation?
    Who has to take the corpse mugshots of shotgun suiciders?

    1. How can you punish someone who kills themselves in a non-state sanctioned way?

      I know! Double their death tax!

    2. It’s less punishing people and more an issue with access to the RX.

    3. Steal all their property so that they are unable to leave anything to their family.

    4. Yeah. What suicide rights activists want is the state to recognize their right to kill themselves and then they want the state to assist them in killing themselves.

      Terminally ill people (and some not so much) have been committing suicide, many with the assistance of their physician, for, well, ever.

      While, of course, people own themselves and have the right to end their own lives, I find their desperate need to get the ‘authorities’ to recognize this as a right somewhat horrible. Stop looking for permission from the state. I get that getting assistance from a doctor may be difficult but physician assisted isn’t the only way.

      1. They’re not looking for permission from the state to die, per se. They’re looking for permission to engage in a financial transaction with their physician for a specific medical service.

        1. This is Canada we’re talking about. Doctors are actors for the state via their medical system. They want the state to provide the means for them to kill themselves.

  9. What scares me is the prospect of a situation where YOU are not allowed to kill yourself, but certain State functionaries (no Cops, though that is another worry) are.

  10. How does life insurance play into this? Are people looking for government approval of their choice to end their life so that their life insurance will have to pay out to their loved ones? Just a thought.

    1. Life insurance policies used to commonly include an exclusion for suicide. It would be too tempting, if one were contemplating suicide, to purchase a policy just prior for the obvious reasons.

      Now, some insurers remove that clause after a certain number of years.

      1. Thanks. It was an honest question.

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  12. support is substantially higher when respondents are asked whether a doctor should be allowed to “end the patient’s life by some painless means” than when they are asked whether a doctor should be allowed to “assist the patient to commit suicide.”

    That gap, which has ranged from 10 to 19 percentage points, suggests that many Americans would rather not take responsibility for their own deaths.

    Aren’t you missing something obvious there? The word “painless”! Take out the “sell” word, and I bet the difference disappears or maybe reverses.

  13. I still can’t believe that the state has control over a persons body.

    That being said, I was (as in drove the person and said my goodbye’s)with a friend when they decided to end their life, while they were perfectly physically health with no actual mental diseases.

    My 26 year olds friends reasoning was that he had just lost his boyfriend that he had been with since about late middle / early high school. They went to college together and had supported each other creating blueprint for thier future lives together. Then came an incident where my friend, that was sober, allowed his partner that had a couple drinks drive home.

    They ended up in a tree. One survivied, one did not. At first, I have to admit that I wanted to follow the state recommended guidelines but the more I spoke with him the more I understood the reasoning.

    As an only child, my friend had lost his mother when he was in his early 20’s leaving him with only his boyfriend as his family. The death of his partner spelled an end to a dream that they have established together. In essance, he stated that any other relationship would not be the same and he would have always reserved most of his heart for the deceased boyfriend. Knowing him, I knew that he would never involve himself in such a “lifestyle” and would probably be alone. But what kind of life is that? Both he and I agreed that it was mere existance, not living.

    Flame me, if you want. I stand by my action or inaction.

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