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Assisted dying and ‘morality’ - Comments

nancynancy's Avatar Comment 1 by nancynancy

I believe people should have the right to end their lives when they believe life is no longer worth living due to illness. Of course, there would need to be some safeguards to prevent abuses, but the ultimate control should be with the person whose life is at stake.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 11:13:23 UTC | #856524

jel's Avatar Comment 2 by jel

The way we treat people at the end of their lives is barbaric. To slowly starve someone to death rather than give them drugs that end their lives quickly is disgusting. We should be ashamed of how we treat each other at this time and we should not call ourselves civilised until such time as we stop doing this.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 11:44:27 UTC | #856530

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 3 by Barry Pearson

I am a paid-up member of "Dignity in Dying", so I obviously favour the availability of assisted dying / assisted suicide. According to a survey, over 80% of people in the UK (over 70% of religious people and over 90% of non-religious people) favour a change to the law to permit assisted dying.

"Care not killing" is an organisation that lobbies to prevent any change to the law. Their membership are: Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain & Ireland, British Council of Disabled People, Christian Medical Fellowship, The Church of England, RADAR (The Disability Network)

The interesting members are the disability groups. Disabled people often oppose assisted dying. (Remember the discussion that followed Terry Pratchett’s valuable programme on the BBC: Debbie Purdy was in favour of change, while another disabled person was opposed).

Their logic appears strange: they claim it devalues the life of disabled people, and some see it as a slippery slope. In fact, it is perhaps the one case in UK law where it is illegal to help a disabled person to achieve what an able person could achieve; normally the law expects that disabled people are helped to achieve what able people can achieve!

But currently the law says that, (in spite of suicide being legal for the last 50 years), except where you "do it yourself", the state controls your life. It isn't yours to fully control. But permitting assisted dying says "it is up to the person living the life to determine its value, not anyone else". After all, in effect, not wanting assisted dying can and typically should be interpreted by default as "I want to live". This doesn't devalue life; it just says who is the arbiter of the value of life: the person living it.

Debbie Purdy is a hero in this discussion. She wants to have the option for the future; then she can stop worrying, and live life as well as possible now. The option in future gives peace of mind now. It can typically delay death, because it doesn't have to be done while the person is capable of "do it yourself". Most people with the option never take it up.

At the moment, people go to Dignitas to die, and then relatives are questioned. After the death! Wouldn't it be better to use UK laws, and have the appropriate checks done before death?

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 12:09:39 UTC | #856533

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 4 by InYourFaceNewYorker

I think I saw a poll that said 72% of Americans support doctor assisted suicide/euthanasia. But I guess it's that 28% that's the loudest, the people screaming about Jesus!

Someone needs to step in and continue Dr. Kevorkian's work. But who would have the guts? How can we get the law changed, then, without taking as many risks (which should not have had to have been necessary in an enlightened society) as Dr. Kevorkian?

Julie

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 13:39:45 UTC | #856569

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 5 by Nunbeliever

Can anyone give me a reason that does not stem from a fear of the divine why we should not allow this to become law?

I am really sorry to hear about your mother. How long ago was it since this happened? How are you today?

Well, I am a strong supporter of euthanasia but there are of course certain objections to it that have nothing to do with religion although I would guess most people who reject euthanasia are religious. I don't know why you object to being against assisted suicide out of fear. Yes, irrational fear is not a good reason to reject something but there can be legitimate reasons to fear something.

The objection I personally find most convincing is that by legalizig euthanasia we might have a slippery slope on our hand. We might create a society where old or very sick people feel pressure to end their lives because they don't want to be a burden to their relatives, the society or because they think some other person needs their place in the hospital/nursing home better. Another objection is that it's very hard to draw the line. Who should be allowed to get assisted suicide and who should not? Should we only allow this to the terminally ill or should everyone who does not suffer from a serious mental illness be able to take advantage of euthanasia? The problem is of course that it is very hard to define a mental illness. Most forms of depression probably remain undiagnosed for the moment being and some people are wrongly diagnosed with depression. Especially with regard to elderly people it is very hard to determine who is clinically depressed or not. Or in other words, most old people (especially the terminally ill) show signs of depression. So, how are we going to determine whether they actually want to die or if it's their depression "speaking".

I personally think the benefits outweigh the risks and that euthanasia should be legal and available at our hospitals as a form of treatment. My concern is primary for the terminally ill, but in principle I think people have the right to end their lives and if a person is not found mentally ill I think we should help that person end his/her life in the most humane way possible. Although obviously we have to have rigorous safety procedures in order to prevent misuse. But, that is true for almost everything we do collectively as a society and not in my opinion a good objection per se.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 14:51:51 UTC | #856599

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 6 by AtheistEgbert

I agree that dying is a wretched thing, and even when some of us are lucky to die in a hospital bed (while others perish through atrocities, starvation or extreme pain without any medication or support) that death is still a terrible thing. A few years ago, I watched my mother turn into a vegetative state and the doctor asking my permission whether to resuscitate her or not if she were to have a heart attack (she is elderly with many health complications). It was traumatic and a terrible experience, but fortunately she made an almost full recovery.

I understand all sorts of problems and complications that could arise if medical professionals or loved ones aid in the death of their patients. It might take a team of lawyers and a court case to examine every single case, which would be impractical, and also the system can easily be abused by the state.

And yet, it seems a fairly obvious thing to me that if a person is dying, then it is the moral thing to do, to make sure their pain is minimalized and their dignity respected. It might be the moral thing, but it might not be the right thing in context of the potential abuse of such power.

I think it is a problematic subject, and hence I can only see death as a continuing tragedy of human existence.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 15:46:14 UTC | #856621

keyfeatures's Avatar Comment 7 by keyfeatures

I fully support a person being given the help to end their life in the least painful way possible if they have come to a decision that that is what they want.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 18:38:56 UTC | #856691

canadian_right's Avatar Comment 8 by canadian_right

The state of Oregon in the USA has a good law regarding euthanasia. And this in the USA where this kind of rational public policy seems to be getting rare (at the federal level any ways).

The person must be terminally ill. The person must have six months or less to live. The person must make two oral requests for assistance in dying. The person must make one written request for assistance in dying. The person must convince two physicians that he or she is sincere and not acting on a whim, and that the decision is voluntary. The person must not have been influenced by depression. The person must be informed of "the feasible alternatives," including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice care, and pain control. The person must wait for 15 days.

This seems a fairly good law, balancing the concerns of a "slippery slope" with the right to die. I think the 6 months to live part is a bit too strict. It also addresses depression. I don't think being depressed is a good reason to end your life as depressions generally lift.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 18:41:13 UTC | #856692

keyfeatures's Avatar Comment 9 by keyfeatures

comment 8 by canadian_right

So you only have a right to die if you're not depressed? I can see that one being challenged on the grounds of being discriminatory. Also, wouldn't many people who have received a terminal diagnosis maybe become depressed as a result? Why should depressed people with only six months to live be told they must wait for the depression to 'lift' before they can end it? Seems sort of ridiculous.

Makes me think of that Monty Python song...."Always look on the bright side of death / just before you draw you terminal breath".

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 19:24:37 UTC | #856714

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 10 by Nunbeliever

To keyfeatures:

So you only have a right to die if you're not depressed?

No, that is not what he said. He said "The person must not have been influenced by depression". It's a common misconception that depression is just grave sadness. No, clinical depression is a disease. And it often (but not always) affects a person's ability to think straight and make decisions. There is yet much to be known about depression but we know it's wrong to compare a person suffering from depression to a person who is sad in the normal sense of the word. Hence a person can make a "rational" decision not to live anymore. A decision that is not influenced by depression or other forms of mental illness and such a person I think we should help to end his/her life in the most humane way possible. We are not only talking about people who are terminally ill. We might be talking about old people who are physically in good shape but who might have lost all their relatives or for other reasons see no point in continuing their existence.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 20:11:21 UTC | #856726

keyfeatures's Avatar Comment 11 by keyfeatures

comment 10 by Nunbeliever

I know what depression is - had it myself. It can be triggered by 'factors' however. For example, losing a job, divorce, and maybe diagnosis of terminal illness.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 21:06:18 UTC | #856738

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 12 by Nunbeliever

To keyfeatures:

I know what depression is - had it myself. It can be triggered by 'factors' however. For example, losing a job, divorce, and maybe diagnosis of terminal illness.

But then I don't understand why you think it's all that ridiculous that a physician would be reluctant to give suicide assistance to a depressed person. Regardless of whether that person has six months to live or not. I am not saying that I think a person suffering from clinical depression should never be able to get assisted suicide. And I am pretty sure that was not what canadian_right meant either (although I am not familiar with that particular law). I just think it is pretty obvious that depression is a disease that often hinders people from thinking straight and hence any responsible physician ought to treat such a patient with utter caution.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 22:01:59 UTC | #856752

hypnoticbob's Avatar Comment 13 by hypnoticbob

Isn't it also a curious thing that in films and novels (and television programs, etc.) we depict those on the verge of death, and who [may] thusly ask for death to come sooner (by their own accord) rather than later, as deserving of their request? This is obviously a broad generalization with context always required, but I doubt anyone would find it difficult to recall a film or novel in which someone, mortally wounded, asks for mercy by being given a quick (or more quick) death rather than suffer in agonizing pain. Across the board we find this. Again, a curious observation. It's a shame that people project themselves onto others so forcefully.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 00:02:45 UTC | #856780

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 14 by Nunbeliever

To hypnoticbob:

A very interesting observation indeed. I think it's pretty obvious that christianity has vastly influenced how we regard concepts like suicide or assisted suicide in the western world. Which is a bit curious since Jesus himself on the cross according to the bible got assisted suicide by god himself.

But, as you say there seems to be a mismatch between how these concepts are regarded in real life and in art. It's of course important to point out that suicide and assisted suicide have been and still are considered honourable concepts (in certain circumstances of course) in many cultures and societies. Ancient Greece is one example of such a culture. Thus, one possible explanation could be that since a lot of western dramturgy and story-telling in general stems from ancient Greece this might have affected they way we potray these concepts in litterature, movies and plays. I mean, the movies, novels and plays you talk about rarely as far as I know deal with every day situations but often take place in extreme conditions like wars or in fantasy or historical environments. It's rarely about the father who after being hit by a car while walking the dog begs his son to finish him off, so to speak. Still, it seems like this hypothesis alone can't really explain why there seems to be such a large mismatch.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 00:46:11 UTC | #856789

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 15 by Robert Howard

Comment 14 by Nunbeliever

It's rarely about the father who after being hit by a car while walking the dog begs his son to finish him off, so to speak.

I'm loath to bring this serious discussion down to my level and reveal my nerdly status, although I think my Tardis avatar may have already taken care of this; but there is actually an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which almost this very scenario is played out. If memory serves, the episode was called Ethics and in it, Lieutenant Worf is rendered quadraplegic after an accident and has to ask his son Alexander to kill him, as per the Klingon tradition (it's all right, he doesn't).

As any trekker worth his salt would tell you, the original series was sort of based on the Roman and Greek Classics.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 01:53:21 UTC | #856812

zengardener's Avatar Comment 16 by zengardener

The problem is of course that it is very hard to define a mental illness.

This is my only issue. Obviously it would be a mistake to allow a temporarily suicidal person to kill themselves. But how can we tell?

Is the state of being suicidal a form of insanity, or a rational response to the circumstances?

What if there is nothing else wrong with the person? What if they have been depressed and suicidal for years and there is no end in sight?

I would not allow a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 02:13:04 UTC | #856816

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 17 by Nunbeliever

To Robert Howard:

Lieutenant Worf is rendered quadraplegic after an accident and has to ask his son Alexander to kill him, as per the Klingon tradition (it's all right, he doesn't).

Haha, damn! I really tried to come up with a ridiculously improbable scenario but I forgot to take Star Trek into account. But, I bet Lieutenant Worf wasn't walking the dog was he. Gotcha! ;-)

I never realized Star Trek dealt with such profound topics. It seems like we all have a lot to learn from Star Trek :D I am definately going to check out that episode.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 02:31:16 UTC | #856823

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 18 by Nunbeliever

To zengardener:

I would not allow a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Yes, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Life! No, just kidding. You make a good point. Still I don't think the risks outweigh the benefits of assisted suicide.

Is the state of being suicidal a form of insanity, or a rational response to the circumstances?

Well, it certainly can be. But, I don't think there is any evidence that it always has to be.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 02:45:05 UTC | #856827

keyfeatures's Avatar Comment 19 by keyfeatures

Some would say suicidal thoughts are always an indication of mental illness. I don't go along with that. My feeling is that we should allow people to make their own decisions even if they are mistakes. Even on something such as whether they choose to live or die. However, provision of assisted suicide should just be one option. Improved end of life care, counselling, pain management etc is also needed.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 08:06:43 UTC | #856898

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 20 by Peter Grant

You should be able to buy suicide pills and patches, and hospitals ought give terminal patients as much drugs they want.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 17:49:20 UTC | #857074

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 21 by ccw95005

I agree with Nunbeliever. Obviously someone terminally ill should be given access to legal assisted suicide if he so desires. Obviously someone who is depressed temporarily should not. In my opinion someone who is chronically depressed and miserable for years and years should have the option of ending his life - but it's a tricky thing to codify. Why our laws don't reflect the opinions of the public is an interesting question. Partly I'm sure it is the religious who are most vocal about this, and politicians tend to listen to the loudest voices, but partly it's also difficult to write laws which will not result in abuses and unintended consequences. In Oregon and Washington in the US, I believe the "death with dignity" laws were passed by voter initiative rather than by the legislatures.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 19:26:55 UTC | #857107

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 22 by Stevehill

I'm for assisted dying. I spent every day with my late wife (of 27 years) as she was intubated and on nil-by-mouth with terminal cancer. For some months there was some hope that chemo and/or surgery might do some good, but as each and every strategy failed we were left - for weeks - staring the inevitable in the face.

It was miserable for her (as it had been throughout), and also for her loved ones.

A humane society would have pulled the plug.

Even after her main organs failed and it was clear she wold not last 24 hours, her (private) doctors felt obliged to say they could keep her going on life support almost indefinitely (probably awake and lucid, and loathing every minute of it). Even her born-again Christian mother drew the line at that, and we let her go.

This was not "quality life" and my wife did not want another minute of it. We reached that point some weeks before everyone else agreed.

Tue, 02 Aug 2011 22:04:47 UTC | #857176

Graxan's Avatar Comment 23 by Graxan

Seeing the comments here only confirms what I already suspected in that nobody seems to be against the idea, not only in principle but in actuallity.

So why is it that hardly any country practices this?? The only answer I can come up with is the uncertainty that we have in making the final decision. Given that if you dispense with technicalities of law and minority cases of opportunism, the only remaining source of this uncertainty seems to derive from our theistic traditions.

The whole scenario is ridiculous and given my proposition that the reason behind it is faith based, it is yet another theological incursion into our basic rights and even our psychology as human beings.

If I am able to when the end comes, I will be demanding self determination as vehemently as I can.

Wed, 03 Aug 2011 09:54:32 UTC | #857374

jel's Avatar Comment 24 by jel

Assisted dying poll shows support for change in law Survey shows three in four people think terminally ill adults should have access to medical help to die, but only one in three think people with physical disabilities should have same right.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/aug/02/assisted-dying-support-law-change

Wed, 03 Aug 2011 10:19:27 UTC | #857386

Genesis 1:1's Avatar Comment 25 by Genesis 1:1

Morality is only a small reason that sick people are allowed to be put through torture.As long as the doctors,hospitals,medical equipment makers,medicine,and all the rest that can make money off of the terminally ill,the practice will contune. In fact,what I have seen more of is the non-christian wanting to keep the terminally ill alive at all cost.The Christian is more than willing to let go ASAP,no mechanical medical aids,unproven medicines or unnecessary operations.

Wed, 03 Aug 2011 22:14:31 UTC | #857613

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 26 by Alan4discussion

Comment 25 by Genesis 1:1

Morality is only a small reason that sick people are allowed to be put through torture.As long as the doctors,hospitals,medical equipment makers,medicine,and all the rest that can make money off of the terminally ill,the practice will contune.

I am sure you are right about the "medical industry lobby"!

In fact,what I have seen more of is the non-christian wanting to keep the terminally ill alive at all cost.The Christian is more than willing to let go ASAP,no mechanical medical aids,unproven medicines or unnecessary operations.

I have seen nothing to support this view, unless you have a strange narrow definition of "Christian".

Do you include other religions in this "Morality" (or should that be immorality) of : -

"I have seen more of the non-christian wanting to keep the terminally ill alive at all cost," -

.. ... .. because it seems that several Christian organisations are strongly opposing the "right to die", while secular organisations are actively supporting it!

Sun, 07 Aug 2011 11:03:13 UTC | #858837

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 27 by Zeuglodon

Comment 23 by Graxan

Seeing the comments here only confirms what I already suspected in that nobody seems to be against the idea, not only in principle but in actuallity. So why is it that hardly any country practices this??

Maybe we're an unrepresentative sample of the population? Or maybe it's because the people who agree with some form of euthanasia fear being branded as 'cold' and 'rational' by everybody else? Maybe public discourse hasn't really took off yet and needs people like Pratchett to drag it out into the open?

The only answer I can come up with is the uncertainty that we have in making the final decision. Given that if you dispense with technicalities of law and minority cases of opportunism, the only remaining source of this uncertainty seems to derive from our theistic traditions.

Don't ignore the legal technicalities just yet - laws are tough to get changed at the best of times, never mind when they evoke as much emotion as this issue does.

Probably one of the bigger problems with the euthanasia issue is that people are hesitant because they haven't made up their minds yet. I'm not sure how much agreement there is over where exactly to draw the line, and many have voiced strong concerns over how to prevent exploitation (though given how hard it is to implement one step, I can't help but wonder how unlikely this last one really is).

The other big problem with the issue is the usual old annoyance - too many strong emotions being prodded. When the debating atmosphere gets charged up, lightning storms are definitely gonna fly.

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 23:11:21 UTC | #859275

Zach1217's Avatar Comment 28 by Zach1217

I can see where both sides of the argument have their strong points, still, ultimately i believe the decision should be left to the person. Perhaps after establishing the mental health and/or stability of the person.

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 07:19:13 UTC | #862660