Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fighting Assisted Suicide's Coat Hanger Argument

I thought I should say something about the recent Carter decision legalizing assisted suicide.

Many objections have been raised against assisted suicide: how we're giving doctors the right to kill, and how safeguards are not guarantee against the slippery slope.

But I find while those arguments hold weight, they are not adequate. They don't explain the real reason we should oppose assisted suicide.

 The big problem we face is euthanasia's coathanger argument.

When feminists argue for the legalization of abortion they assert that if women don't have legal abortion, they use coathangers to abort, suffer horrible deaths and it'll be all your fault.

Proponents of assisted suicide argue something similar: if terminally ill patients aren't allowed to received assisted suicide, they will suffer horrible deaths and it'll be all your fault.

Nobody wants to be respsonsible for horrible deaths, do they?

The problem is that what the suicidal person wants is to end their suffering by means of self-destruction.

It seems nobody has stopped to ask: what's wrong with self-destruction?

They assume self-destruction is a legitimate end if it's obtained by one's free consent.

If that's what you want, then that's what you want, right?

The problem is that it makes the autonomy of the person, their exercise of free will, more valuable than the person himself.

In traditional thinking, if you respect a person, you want them to live, you let them live and you try to save them where possible.

In modern thinking, if you respect a person, you respect their bodily autonomy and wishes for themselves, so long as they're not hurting anyone else.

And if you don't respect their bodily autonomy and their wishes for themselves, especially in regards to ending their pain and suffering, then you don't respect the person.

At the heart of the conflict on assisted suicide is: What does it mean to respect a person?

The public's general concept of respect is the reason why they have trouble understanding opposition to assisted suicide. I mean don't you want you to end their pain?

The thing is, proponents of assisted suicide aren't ultimately about ending suffering. We can do that without killing. What they're arguing is: I want what I want when I want it. I want to end my suffering on my own terms.

Have you noticed that proposals to help the terminally ill with their suffering fall on deaf ears? That's because it's not about ending suffering. It's about people making decisions for themselves, even if those decisions harm themselves.

The proponent of assisted will answer: How can ending suffering amount to "harm"?

Destroying a person is harm. It used to be self-evident, that suicide meant destroying one's own person.

But the debate on assisted suicide will become like the debate on abortion. There will be tons of denial (and I've already seen it) that inducing death in the terminally ill is nothing like inducing death in anyone else because consent.

What we will have to argue is what respect for the person means.

The arguments about slippery slopes and the dangers of doctors killing are all well and good. But the heart of the euthanasia debate is how to respect a terminally ill person. And we have to put to the fore the once self-evident proposition the destroying a person is not respect, and until we persuade the public of this truth, we will not win the fight against assisted suicide.