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Let me know if I missed it, but I saw no comments to my post yesterday in which anyone was willing to take a side in a debate that allegedly represents 49% of America.

I realize this blog readership skews toward skeptics and science lovers. But still, not one person is willing to make a rational case against doctor-assisted suicide?

That is exactly what I predicted.

The 49% poll number was never real. No rational person prefers the government having veto power over the end-of-life decisions that they, their family, and their doctors prefer. And the irrational people don't want me shining a light on their argument.

This reminds me of the conspiracy theory that says gay activists exaggerated the risk of AIDS to the heterosexual community because it was the best way to get funding. I have no opinion on the validity of that conspiracy theory beyond the fact that it activated my pattern recognition for the doctor-assisted suicide topic. It looks as though a tiny percentage of the public (a subset of creationists perhaps) has been using misleading poll results to make it seem as though support for their position is strong when in fact it is nearly non-existent.

I'm still willing to say I'm wrong about the polls being bogus. But it seems mighty strange that 49% of the American public are suddenly hiding.

I submit that the traditional media is missing a big story here on the misleading nature of those polls.

My book's sales rank has dropped since I started hammering on this topic, so I will take that as my guide to back off and let the 1% of the public who are  on the other side have their victory.

I will also take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who felt threatened by my choice of words on this topic.








 
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Dec 3, 2013
One thing that I believe trips you up, Scott, is a failure to appreciate the nature of faith. Faith is a civilization-shaping force. It knits communities together, marshaling the collective energy to achieve remarkable things. Certain Middle-Eastern countries have built their power base by weaponizing this force - although it has a tendency to backfire on those who think they can control it.

It taps deep human needs for identity, certainty, community and control.

When one of the tenets of your faith is that all human life is inherently valuable - and that its beginning and end is owned by God, not man- it is easy to conclude that you are obligated to work to defend God's sovereignty in end-of-life decisions.

From the outside it seems absurd to think someone would conclude they need to fight to control the personal decisions of other people - but that is the "logic" of faith. You are attacking people for defending God's sovereignty. It's a worthy fight, IMO - but you need to be more aware of what you are fighting.

In the US most religious people embrace a live and let live ethic - anywhere settled law a has closed the door on other options. In edge cases, like assisted suicide and abortion, the fact that our laws allow folks to attempt to assert God's sovereignty over personal choices made by non-believers - makes such assertions mandatory in the minds of some. If you don't try, you are conceding that God is only God of a few instead of God of all. That is not a concedable point.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
nasch: "The thing is, this statement [that mistakes will be made] is more true than you acknowledged. Whether you go with always intervene, sometimes intervene, or never intervene, there will inevitably be mistakes and even serious fsck ups. So that's not a valid reason to choose one path over the others."

Correct on the first half, not on the second. When different choices don't offer you different benefits, you then must make the decision based on which does the least harm, or is the least risky.

Because we are talking about an action (ending a life) that is completely, totally, 100% irrevocable, taking action is ipso facto risky than not taking it. After all, if you decide to live, you can always change your mind tomorrow, but the reverse doesn't hold. Also, again, legal precedence in many cases sets the value of human life as priceless for all practical purposes, which makes the cost of making the wrong decision to terminate a life much higher than making the wrong decision to not terminate it. Considering both of these, the government essentially cannot choose to do anything EXCEPT protect life at all costs.

This is why I would favor a system where there were three parties in play: the government, the individual (either the person, their family, or their proxy), and the expertise of the medical community, represented by the attending doctor. The government, by default, should always take the stance of protecting life, but as long as the individual and the doctor are in agreement, the government would not have the power to force the issue. Doing it this way would also short-circuit situations where the doctor does not believe the proxy is acting in the best interest of the individual, e.g. some of the scenarios I outlined earlier.

There is still potential for abuse, of course, such as collusion between the doctor and the proxy, in the case of a wealthy individual. But no system is perfect, and I think those could be handled through legal means after the fact -- which would be no help to the individual, but a deterrent for someone to try it in the first place.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
"nasch, the point is that there is a logical argument to be made that existence is more important than experience on the ground that existence is the bigger/primary of the two issues."

What makes existence primary? Because you can't have experience without existence? This is correct, but I don't see how that means existence is the most important thing to preserve regardless of experience. I think it's a non sequitur. If preserving life leads to an outcome that's bad for literally everyone.... what is the purpose of preserving that life?
 
 
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
topsully,
I can't choose to end my suffering because religions that aren't mine say that's wrong. I should suffer till unconscious, then rot slowly till organ failure.

The laws against doctor assisted suicide exist because of the religious views of lawmakers and powerful Christian constituents. The end result is that religious views I DON'T hold, are binding me to my bed.

 
 
Dec 3, 2013
@Dilbro - No one is forcing their religious, or even non-religious beliefs on you. You or your designated guardian can refuse treatment or request treatment end. If you have a tube you don't want it can be removed/disconnected without anyone's religion or lack thereof interfering. It happens each and every day all over these 50 states. That isn't the issue Scott is addressing. He is asking for permission for he or his designated guardian to request a specific treatment which is not available to him in his state.
 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
Many of these responses are really weird.

@anothermick
"Further, I have a living will that specifically states in detail that, should I be incapacitated, it is my desire to remain alive by any means necessary. Philosophically, I believe that life is inherently valuable and should be preserved, regardless of the quality of that life."

I'm sorry but this one makes me hate you. You know societies have limited resources to treat people, right? You believe you should be entitled to as much as you can consume even while forcing people with real life prospects to go without? What you seem to be saying is that your life experiences, even terrible ones, are more important than those of other people.

If I want to die but can't manage to kill myself, there should be a cool-down period to make sure I want really want to do it and confirmation from maybe 3 doctors that I am not going to improve. With those requirements met, I should be free to have my life ended in a dignified manner by a health care professional or at least be provided with a mechanism which I can use to end it myself.

Society constantly makes value judgments regarding people's quality of life and whether they should live or die. Capital punishment, wars of preference, providing necessary funds for food and medicine to poor children around the world who are dying badly through no fault of their own, etc.

I'm with Scott when I say that anyone demanding there be laws to overrule the wishes of a person, their family, and their doctor are fair game. If you want to control how I die then I'm sure you're okay with me controlling how you die.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
@krusty256

[A small but (I think) important point: there is a difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide. I agree that killing someone as an act of mercy is fraught with practical and moral issues. Giving someone the ability to take action to end their own life is more logically robust. I think that's what Scott's referring to here.]

Indeed.

A doctor may tell a hospitalized patient that he has control of his own pain medicine. "Take two every few hours, but never more than two. That would be dangerous. Eight would most certainly send you to the endless sleep." Then he goes away for a few hours and returns to find that the patient . . . has taken two.

There are no statistics on this, for obvious reasons, but every oncologist has experienced it. Many people who say that they want to die don't actually take steps to end their lives when such steps are available.

Why? Beats me. Perhaps they want external validation of their choice to die. Perhaps, when push comes to shove, they'd rather live in pain then take that final step. Perhaps they're waiting for a moment when they truly can't bear the pain even one more instant. Perhaps they only want to die when surrounded by loved ones. There could be a thousand reasons, but it's hard to get away from the simple fact that most such people with terminal, painful illnesses don't actually end their own lives.

For those who truly want it, the notorious book Final Exit provides a number of strategies for reasonably reliable self-termination. One wouldn't even need a cooperative doctor. Accordingly, "assisted suicide" is usually something of a red herring. Regular suicide will do the trick just fine.

When the individual concerned can't communicate or act, there's still a pretty simple solution for a family who can't bear the suffering -- cease all care other than pain alleviation. My brother lived in a dismal twilight for six months while my father struggled to accept the facts, and died within a week once the tubes were finally disconnected. This is known as "letting die," it's neither euthanasia nor assisted suicide, and it's legal in all fifty states of the USA.

The worst such situations are when someone cannot communicate or act freely, will not die naturally in a reasonable time frame, and is in tremendous pain which can't be palliated. That's when euthanasia might rear its head. It's an ugly situation forced upon people who are already distraught, and it's no surprise that discussion about it can become heated.

 
 
Dec 3, 2013
nasch, the point is that there is a logical argument to be made that existence is more important than experience on the ground that existence is the bigger/primary of the two issues. therefore, even though experience within existence can be really crappy, that does not logically justify experience taking precedence over existence because existence is still a bigger issue.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
" Because the law cannot possibly be written to cover every circ*mstance, there will inevitably be some wrong decisions made."

The thing is, this statement is more true than you acknowledged. Whether you go with always intervene, sometimes intervene, or never intervene, there will inevitably be mistakes and even serious fsck ups. So that's not a valid reason to choose one path over the others.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
[The 49% poll number was never real. No rational person prefers the government having veto power over the end-of-life decisions that they, their family, and their doctors prefer. And the irrational people don't want me shining a light on their argument.]

yeah, that's it. Earth to Scott...time to come back to reality. I'm more than willing to discuss the subject with you. But I'm not a public speaker nor am I an expert in debating. And I don't have a dog in this fight. I do believe the 49% is close, if not exactly accurate. Next time you come to Kansas City, look me up and we can chat about it. Privately. Sorry if that won't make you feel any better.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
No apology necessary.

 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
Doctor assisted suicide is a freedom of religion issue.
Religious beliefs that I don’t have are being forced down my throat like the feeding tube keeping me alive.

I haven’t seen a coherent non-religious reason why I should be forced to continue laying here with no hope of recovery.

Where is MY freedom of non-religion?
Don’t force your religious beliefs on my end of life decisions.
 
 
+31 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
Scott - I'm really very sorry, not just for the loss of your father, but also for the experience you and your family went through.

I don't think it is an accident that no one took up your challenge. It isn't because the poll was wrong, although it may very be wrong, but rather I think to one or more of several things.

First, I don't think many who read you regularly want to pick at your wound. Having myself recently (September) gone through the very same experience with my father while I was holding the exact opposite viewpoint I certainly did disagree, but didn't feel like making the argument, it still is a very open wound for me.

Second, your choice or descriptors set the tone for how any opposing argument would be handled. Arbitrarily referring to those opposed to this point of view as "creationists" isn't a way to encourage a debate. Apologizing now helps, but we're moving on.

Third, you have a habit of arguing in a way that pokes fun your detractors in an enjoyable and in my opinion, acceptable manner. This topic doesn't lead itself to that. It just makes you look bitter and a little mean. I get that. Again, I too just went through this and understand the pain all too well.

Fourth, I don't think many people believe that any argument put forth in this debate would do anything to change your mind. I honestly don't know how a poll, a real, unbiased questioned poll, could be created on this topic that didn't include words that have pre-loaded feelings. I think you could easily get the answers you desire by asking in a certain way.

I'm sure given time and space I could easily come up with a few more reasons people stayed away. But I also think that the number of people who oppose the ending of a life for so-called compassionate reasons is a lot higher than 1%. There are many more than 15 of the population who are religiously convicted people who would oppose it purely on religious grounds, add to that those who are squeamish because of the inability to decide where to to draw the line, and you're possibly approaching 50%.

Now I also believe that the argument can easily framed that taking medical measures to prolong the life of a suffering patient is immoral and unjustified and that this argument doesn't contradict the first. But I think I've gone on too long already.

 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
"However, since existence ontologically precedes experience, I reject the idea that any amount of negative experience can so subtract from human life that the willful termination of human life becomes logical."

Your philosophy doesn't make sense to me. A person decides that his suffering is so great that his experience of life is a negative one - ie, worse than nothing. His family is suffering too and would be better off if he could die peacefully - and they acknowledge this. He is unable to contribute to society in any measurable way and instead is using resources that could be put to some other use. You're saying in this situation it's better that he be kept alive as long as possible. I don't get it.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
A slight diversion related to breaking up with your country: Someone's progressed on your floating island idea, taking it in a slightly different direction by building a floating building instead: www.freedomship.com. Bring your seasickness pills.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
A small but (I think) important point: there is a difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide. I agree that killing someone as an act of mercy is fraught with practical and moral issues. Giving someone the ability to take action to end their own life is more logically robust. I think that's what Scott's referring to here.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
I can't quite leave my devil's advocate post as-is, because I have to say again, I don't agree with what I wrote. The flaw in my argument is that "the government" is not an impersonal machine that processes rules down to the last comma. It is an amalgamation of hundreds of thousands of people making decisions as best they can given the data they have. The end result is often the same, unfortunately, but the distinction is important to remember.

The true correct answer is the "sometimes" option. In the end, we have to have faith in the good intentions of all individuals, and in the ability of our legal system to correct matters when that faith turns out to be misplaced. The law cannot be constructed to cover all cases, but it doesn't have to be.

I think the law should be constructed on a balance-of-power model, very much like the government, actually. There are three parties involved: the government, the individual (the actual person or their medical proxy), and the doctors. By default, the individual gets the right to choose life or death -- but if the doctors AND the government disagree, they can overrule, or at least forestall the act until it can be argued in court. The participation of the doctor, as the source of expertise, is the key differentiator.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
@nasch, i agree that the experiences of existence enrich existence. Further, i should have clarified that when i said “life,” i meant “human life,” even though much of the logic is true for life in general. However, since existence ontologically precedes experience, I reject the idea that any amount of negative experience can so subtract from human life that the willful termination of human life becomes logical.

regarding your addition of non-human extant objects to the equation, i would add another point of logic that human life is superior to other forms of existence.

really good thoughts. much appreciated.
 
 
Dec 3, 2013
anothermick, your argument is not logically sound, in that the conclusion does not follow from the premises, and the second premise is irrelevant anyway. What is the "secondary" thing you are referring to? Just because one thing precedes another doesn't make it primary over it. For example, Archduke Ferdinand's assassination preceded (and triggered) World War I, but his death is not of as great importance as the war itself.
 
 
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
"My book's sales rank has dropped since I started hammering on this topic, so I will take that as my guide to back off and let the 1% of the public who are on the other side have their victory."

That sounds like you're saying this morally significant issue that you feel strongly about is less important to you than making as much money as possible from your book. I hope I am misunderstanding that.
 
 
 
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