January 24, 2006

Beyond death with dignity

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to allow medically-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, it's worth pointing out that for the right-to-die side, this shouldn't be the end of the conversation.

Assisted suicide pits two profound and entirely defensible philosophical positions against one another: that one human being should never kill another one in any circumstances (well, except war or capital punishment, but never mind), and that individuals should have control over their own destinies. Like most people who hold the second belief, I also endorse the sentiment that is at the heart of the first one: that human life is uniquely precious. Which is why I think that when we talk about the right of the terminally ill to choose suicide it's important to make clear that this choice should be free of even the most subtle coercion, and that all other possible choices should be available.

The problem is that under our current healthcare system, these conditions are rarely, if ever, met. Most dying people can not afford the treatments or quality of care that they would genuinely wish for. There is a big difference between saying "I would rather die than live for six more months in this condition under even the best possible circumstances" and "I would rather die than live for six more months in this crappy, understaffed hospital, while my family depletes their savings to keep me here, especially since I can't afford treatment that might prolong my life and the doctors refuse to manage my pain properly."

If we're going to take the extreme step of allowing people the right to doctor-assisted suicide, it's our moral duty to change the system so that as few people as possible ever want to exercise that right. The choices that too many terminally ill patients have right now are really no choices at all.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Well put!

When you're right, you're right. Of course, single-payer healthcare that covers EVERYONE and EVERYTHING regardless of employment status is the only thing that will make this possible.

Insightful and incisive.
Now to check out where this is done so as not to reinvent the wheel.
The "rite" wing will be up in arms. They can sing "Christian Soldiers" all they like : it's all show, no substance.

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