After my blog post about my dad's death (below), in which I spewed hate against activists and politicians who oppose doctor-assisted suicide, people informed me that according to polls 49% of the citizens of my country disagree with me.

I have to call bullshit on the 49%.

The first time I have even spoken to someone who confessed to me an anti-doctor-assisted suicide position was this week, when a creationist reporter called me at home to ask why I preferred her dead. She and her husband are both activists against doctor-assisted suicide. (I confirmed to her that the world would be better off without her.)

I have no quarrel with anyone who has a different opinion on this or any other topic because no one should be judged by their thoughts alone. But if you are an activist against the right to die with dignity, you are an accomplice in the torture of countless senior citizens, including both of my parents. From a morality standpoint that puts you in the same category as pedophiles and terrorists. Keep in mind that even terrorists have a noble (to them) reason for their actions. (Hint: God)

I got criticism for my uncivilized writing on this topic. My uncensored words were shocking, and I realize that. But this is a topic that pits emotion against emotion. It's not strictly an economic decision. It's about how people feel. I defend my honest display of feelings because it is important information in this debate. I want the activists to know that I don't just disagree with them in some intellectual sense. They should know that I consider them as immoral as pedophiles and terrorists. And if the comments on the Internet tell us anything it is that I am not alone. That knowledge is a useful addition to the debate. People need to know that if they are accomplices in the torture of my family members or me, I don't merely disagree with their position on the topic; I wish them a painful death. No one sheds a tear when a terrorist accidentally blows himself up in his bomb-making factory.

Just to be clear, I don't favor killing people for political activism. I'm just saying I wouldn't shed a tear if an activist opposed to doctor-assisted-suicide died a painful death. I'm not proud of that position. I'm just being honest.

Note to the analogy-challenged: One shouldn't compare apples to oranges. But it's fair to say both are food. So while you might be tempted to argue the differences between an anti-doctor-assisted-suicide activist and a pedophile and a terrorist, you'd be missing the larger point that they are all examples of deeply immoral behavior. And the world would be better off without them.

Let me be the first to point out that I live in a bubble in Northern California. For example, I can't think of a single person in my extended social group who is a creationist. Clearly my experience is not representative of the country as a whole. You don't need to point that out in the comments. I get it.

My blog post from yesterday got reprinted all over the Internet, generating thousands of comments on various sites. I spent hours looking through them, and I would say 95% are clearly in favor of doctor-assisted suicide. But obviously the folks who comment on Internet message boards are not representative of the country as a whole.

I don't trust anecdotal evidence but I have a hard time believing that 49% of my country is opposed to doctor-assisted suicide. I would think you can only get that result if you ask the question in a way that leads the witness. I'm looking at you, pollsters.

If you ask citizens whether or not they believe doctors should have the legal right to kill terminally ill people, or some version of that question, of course you get a lot of resistance. I can easily imagine 49% of the public being opposed to a question that leads the witness in that way.

Now suppose you ask this way: "If you are terminally ill and expect to be in terrible pain for months, if not years, do you want the government to decide what healthcare options are available to you, or should that decision be made by some combination of you, your doctor and your loved ones?"

My best guess is that 90% of the public would oppose giving the government veto power over their personal healthcare decisions.

Many folks have legitimate concerns that doctor-assisted-suicide laws could be implemented poorly. The best safeguard would be a legal requirement that a citizen has to specifically request a doctor-assisted-suicide option in his written healthcare directive, complete with a personalized list of safeguards. For example, a rich person might request an independent panel of experts get involved, should the need arise, because he doesn't trust his next-of-kin to keep their paws off his inheritance. Others might entrust the decision-making to a doctor plus one trusted family member. And perhaps you can further specify what happens if you are in a coma, or not mentally competent, and so on. Each person can take on as much or as little risk as they like. It's called freedom. Is 49% of my country opposed to that?

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Dec 7, 2013
Dear Scoll,

I agree with you about euthanasia but if you looking for a intelligent person to disagree with you, I'll recommend that you talk to Theodore Dalrymple. He's probably the most prominent conservative contemporary writer and has been compared to George Orwell, for example.

I do not know how to contact him, but you could try any of the numerous magazines where he's a regular contributor. There are couple of sites also dedicated to him, of which http://www.skepticaldoctor.com/ is probably most prominent.

If you decide to engage him, please let me know. I'll really like a good conversation and the one between you would be a worth following.

/Jari Mustonen
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Dec 2, 2013
I think that in general, people's opinions are truly worthless as it comes to using them for making decisions. Especially when considering abstracting opinions from things such as polls.

The thing with opinions is that too often it concerns a topic that doesn't really concern the individual at all. So they're hypothetical answers to hypothetical questions. If I have never been in the situation that you were regarding your father, I could form any opinion I want, as it does not (yet) concern me. And people do. They just make up an opinion because they're unable to oversee the consequences. Some people even actively go against popular opinion just because they can, perhaps as a sick way of getting attention.

Perhaps a less emotional example is that of smoking. Ask anyone of the non-smoking majority whether its a good idea to forbid smoking anywhere outside, or to triple the tax on it. They'll probably think it's a good idea. Whether that is reasonable, fair, or a good idea doesn't matter. It simply doesn't affect them, so they can have any opinion without any consequences.

And as you know best, people aren't really rational in any way, so don't expect logic or reason to come from opinions. Opinions are simply worthless.
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Dec 2, 2013

[Hes trying to keep other people from going through what he went through, namely, watching a loved one die painfully over months/years.]

How do you think this is relevant to my point? Yes, that's what he's dong, and he's doing it using nothing more than emotional appeals.

[And hes doing it by making a very powerful argument]

"Powerful" is relative. In this case, it is no doubt powerfully emotional (both to him and to others), but that doesn't change the fact that it is purely emotional. It is not the least bit "powerful" rationally.

[That strikes me as enough to be considered moral evaluation.]

How it "strikes" you is irrelevant. All Scott is doing is emoting. He's not making a moral evaluation because he hasn't presented a coherent moral framework by which to evaluate it. He doesn't have a sound philosophical basis for his view. He "feels" something and then says it with feeling, in the hopes that the excessive amount of feelings he has when he says it will somehow make it true.

I should like to point out that Scott's view is one of the most dangerous views in all of recorded history (and no, this isn't undue exaggeration for effect). He disagrees with people, feels strongly that they are wrong and evil for disagreeing with him, and has no problem with EVERYONE who disagrees with him suffering a painful death. He may like to think otherwise, but it is a very short hop from there to thinking that the government should be getting involved in making that process a reality. Now, this is not to say that I believe Scott is on the verge of being a mass-murderer (don't hear something that I'm not saying). I don't think he'll ever be in a position to do such a thing (his wealth and comfort should see to that). I'm just pointing out that, historically, his particular view is the type which routinely leads (under the right !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ to very bad things.

Dec 2, 2013
I'm baffled that there's any controversy here. It just seems so obvious that terminally ill and suffering people would have access to a quick, painless, and dignified end. I hate how we're a "freedom loving country" and yet we spend endless effort constructing rules to try and prevent people from exploiting freedom. Seems that the courts should primarily exist to differentiate suicide from murder and punish the abusers, rather having endless debate on whether we can be trusted with a right. I think that I'll take umbrage to any insinuation that the USA is "the land of the free" from here on out. The freedom we have isn't really freedom, it's more like economic privilege.
Dec 2, 2013
[Do you personally know anyone who wants the government to veto the healthcare choices that they, their families, and their doctors prefer, which incidentally is far cheaper than the alternatives? I believe that person doesn't exist. -- Scott]

Yes, I do, but I'm not sure if its pertinent. Maybe we're not talking about the same thing here. I'm just saying there are polls out there with the questions that is essentially "Do you approve of physician assisted suicide" where the country is split.

On a deeper issue, do I think the government needs to protect us from ourselves sometimes? Yes. Do I think this is one of those cases? Possibly. Honestly, even though I've watched both my parents die, I just haven't given much thought to the question. From the time we knew my dad was going to die until he died was a couple of months. My mom was diagnosed with cancer the day after Christmas and was given a year to live - and she lasted 3 months. By the way, those are two of the people who would have wanted "the government to veto the healthcare choices that they, their families, and their doctors prefer", so maybe you got your wish to some extent.
Dec 2, 2013
Scott, have you seen the following op-eds on cnn:



you've certainly got the clout to be heard & influence people! you say in the book that at this point it's more about making the world a better place than more $...
Dec 2, 2013
We offer our codolences in your time of grieving ;|

"I survived Abu Ghraib and all I got was this lousey t-shirt", so....I live in a Creationist bubble--assaulted by a few suicidal, antichrist, cocaine-addled shadows who claim murder and have forced their pig drug on me since day one.

With all the inelegance and offensive fury of a ravaged heart...

Why do we euthanize animals and not men? As a lacto-vegetarian, I oppose euthanizing animals as well. Is it because of state-of-the-art medicine that we keep men alive, that maybe we can try something? Some believe in cryogenics, some in afterlife.

I can only witness as a long-time mental patient, diagnosed schizophrenic, withdrawn, with self-destructive--suicidal--tendency. Why, I asked. Everything was ok. I had a girlfriend, we shared tobacco, as m.p.'s do, I just cut my hand wrecklessly and couldn't focus on a career, what's the hassle?

38 yrs. later that time reminds me of the famous cat paintings done by a sz. m.p., that grew more bizarre as he descended further into hallucination. When younger I was a runner. Today tobacco looks absolutely suicidal. I want to move to Oregon....the other side of it. A paradise for endurance sports. The feeling is that tobacco got a fair trial, but running did not.

So what does their pig cocaine look like? It does the same damage tobacco does to the arteries. I've got an arrhythmia. My cardiologist says caffeine can kill me. Here they're forcing a substance with many times the power to destroy the cardiovascular system and shorten life. They reason "This is my potentially abusive substance of choice, I'll take the consequences, I'm not hurting anyone else." But they're killing me! I don't choose their pig dope. And this attitude infects and trickles down. Those who aren't captive like me are captive mentally. They enslave themselves to their substance, and people around them either copy the behavior or distance themselves from it. Smokers at the bus stop.

Of course your feeling is "Stop the pain NOW! He doesn't have a chance." I think the same thought, but not at a deathbed. I'm captive and the death drug is forced on me. What about others? Does this thinking sway them towards choosing self-destruction?

Calculating hours worked at age 59 my peers have likely worked ~40 yrs., I've done ~6 or 7 yrs. What was I doing for 33 yrs.? This is the kind of experience that makes people curse self-destruction.

Today I fear the fear of the past. What is paranoia but excess fear? I was so overwhelmed I wanted to destroy myself. I wouldn't wish that on anyone else.

This is the kind of experience that makes people curse self-destruction.

I look forward to reading "How to Fail...."; I saw the Tavis Smiley interview.

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Dec 1, 2013
I have been thinking about this topic off and on since your first post. I would say that had you asked me a month ago what my stance is on Euthanasia I would be strongly against it. Most of this is because I don't believe that people should have that freedom because it would be abused and I don't think that life should be ended early. My other reason is a strong mistrust of the doctor/insurance/political circle that runs healthcare in America. I could see the insurance company wanting to ease your dad out to pasture to save money on end of life care. I can see the doctor getting a kickback for recommending end of life care. And I can see the politician extorting money out of both because that's what they do.

However, looking at this as someone who hasn't had to go through this situation (my mom died of cancer but kept fighting till the end) v.s. someone who has gone through it, I can say that I think the person should have that option for end of life. I think it should be limited in application (I also think abortion should be limited in application) and you have pointed out some good limits. I hope I never have to go through this but as of this time I would vote to allow people the freedom to choose under certain restrictions relating to doctors and family members conflict of interests.
Dec 1, 2013

[But one cannot remain a credible supporter of freedom in society and simultaneously make open and public wishes for the torturous death of one's ideological opponents. These two positions are mutually exclusive.]

I am tempted to agree with you on this point. I myself would not speak of the opponents of the right to die in the manner Scott did. But perhaps thats because I CANT speak of them that way until I go through what Scott went through. Scott had to watch his parents die a horrible death because of the political position of these people. So I think Ill cut him some slack on this one.

[On one hand, there's the torture death of my parents. On the other is my inappropriate "wishing." Do those seem about the same to you? -- Scott]
Nov 30, 2013

I am well aware that there are quite a few people on the anti side of the discussion who employ language like that.

But one cannot remain a credible supporter of freedom in society and simultaneously make open and public wishes for the torturous death of one's ideological opponents. These two positions are mutually exclusive.
Nov 30, 2013

[I am not a creationist. But I do practice a mainstream faith. And I vote. And at some point in the past, I may have voted against assisted death. I might vote against it in the future.

What I hear you saying right now is that this is sufficient cause for me to be put to death in a slow and painful manner....]

Do you deny that right to die oponents use similarly powerful, emotional arguments? What I see Scott doing here is fighting fire with fire.
Nov 30, 2013
Scott, you have my sincere condolences. I've been a primary caregiver for several elderly family members and I've been through a similar experience. But I have to object to what you are doing right now.

I am not a creationist. But I do practice a mainstream faith. And I vote. And at some point in the past, I may have voted against assisted death. I might vote against it in the future.

What I hear you saying right now is that this is sufficient cause for me to be put to death in a slow and painful manner. What I also hear you saying is that you would be glad to press a button and make it so, but for the fear of legal consequences. I have to infer from these statements that if you knew that you could get away with it and that legal consequences would not occur, that you would very seriously consider it. This inference is coming from the clarification you have made that you are quite serious in your statements and that you are not exaggerating.

I am not writing this because I am actually in fear of my life. I am writing this because I respect you as a luminary of social justice in our society, and it is not rational behave like this and then argue that it is I who am the equivalent of a terrorist.

I understand your grief. But if I am going to have the right to vote, I must argue that it is meaningless unless I am allowed to vote in ways with which you do not agree. It is meaningless if the way in which I vote is apt to provoke individuals with public platforms and large audiences into making statements concerning my extermination.

Much of the naturalistic philosophy that you have advocated in your blog makes it very difficult to ascribe a moral dimension to human activity, yet your outrage over the manner of your father's death appears to be distinctly moral in nature. If an objective morality exists which has room for this sort of outrage, then it must by definition have boundaries concerning the spewing of hate (your words.)

Once again, you have my sincere condolences. It is my hope that peace of mind will find you once again during this holiday season.

[Morality allows for self-defense, at least where I live. An honest accounting of how I feel when the government tortures my family members is part of that self-defense. -- Scott]
Nov 30, 2013
I am somewhat ambivalent about doctor assisted suicide, but as someone with a mathematics degree, I gotta think you're moronic for not believing the 49%. A quick search using Google says that 49% number is probably an accurate statement. You can argue philosophy all you want, but if you start arguing math, you're going to lose.

I think what this tells me is that you really, REALLY need to get out of that bubble and get a feel for what the real world thinks. When you are so convinced of your righteousness that you are willing to ignore math (ok, polling is math's bastard step child, but its still basically math), you need to look at yourself, not at others.

Again, like I said earlier, I'm not arguing the right or wrong of the basic principle here. I do have some opinions, but that doesn't really come into play here. My biggest complaint here is that you are just ignoring reality. And that's a bit scary.

[Do you personally know anyone who wants the government to veto the healthcare choices that they, their families, and their doctors prefer, which incidentally is far cheaper than the alternatives? I believe that person doesn't exist. -- Scott]
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Nov 30, 2013
Please accept my condolences for your loss.

May I ask, what happened to Hospice? I'm an RN who works for Suncoast Hospice in Pinellas County, Florida. Our daily census is 1600-2200 people. Two thirds of all of Pinellas County die under our care, the vast majority of whom die at home. (We do have Care Centers, but even there the atmosphere is far, far different from a hospital. We try to save people from having to die in a hospital.) 99% of all the deaths are painless. When family is present, we include them in our plan of care and they are almost always able to be present in the final moments.)

lWhy was Mr. Adams not under Hospice Care? In most cases the fees are paid for by Medicare.
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Nov 30, 2013
What happened to Hospice? I'm an RN who works for Suncioast Hosopice
Nov 29, 2013
Dear Scott, thank you so much for your impassioned call for death with dignity. I couldn't agree more.

Your readers should know about the three major national groups working to advance this cause: Final Exit Network, at www.finalexitnetwork.org, Compassion and Choices, at www.compassionandchoices.org, and the Death With Dignity National Center, at www.deathwithdignity.org. All three are just wonderful and deserving of support.

btw, in the US, "death with dignity" is a far better term to describe what we're talking about than "physician-assisted suicide." The laws that we're getting passed allow a doctor to write a prescription for a lethal dose of medication for a mentally competent adult who is suffering intolerably and typically near death. But that's all the doctor does. It's still your own action that results in your death, and really, you are not committing suicide but choosing not to suffer through the final stages of your bodily disintegration.

thanks again.
Nov 29, 2013
Hi Scott, I read your blog regularly, although I seldom feel an urge to comment. However, I'd like to applaud the emotional honesty, tempered as always by rationality, that is so readily apparent in your most recent posts.

I don't know if many of your readers are aware, but there are places in Europe where it's possible to exercise this choice. Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland.

I also understand (I'm not from the US) that assisted suicide is legal in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont and Montana -- though how one would go about finding help in this matter is another question.
Nov 29, 2013
Based on the comments here I think it's important to point out that I do not believe that Scott is in favor of assisted deaths for those who are (physically) healthy but depressed. I guess this should be cleared up by Scott - what say you?

I think the point is that when a person is at the end of their life due to old age or disease or injury and there is no rescue in sight - just suffering until you finally die, that is when it's okay to send them off sooner rather than let them suffer and dwindle till the end.

I would think that compassionate and rational thinking people would agree this law would be for the benefit to all of us. I certainly would prefer it if I was in such a situation. And I would make the same decision for a loved one. I mean we do it for pets, don't we care just as much about each other?
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 29, 2013
Life is really, really hard. I happen to have had a nice, lucky life. by chance I had the combination of genetics, specific skills and disposition that happens to do well in the late 20th century. I think I am fairly unusual.

I know quite a lot of people who did very badly in the genetic lottery. I'm not talking looks here, but the ability to master the 3R's to the level that you are employable in a digital world where chinese and machines do most manual work. I also know quite a few people who had had really awful things happen to them. Some could be considered their own fault (drugs, alcohol, bad marriages), some just bad luck (cancer, accidents, spousal deaths).

While I have personally never considered it would be better to 'not exist', I suspect for many of these people, death would not be something they would avoid. In fact, I know one who admits he was once driving towards a bridge, and seriously considered "missing" the road and going off the side. He stopped himself only because he didn't know if the embankment was high enough to not just be injured.

We are all going to "not exist" at some point. You don't get out of this world alive... ever. I think people should be allowed to choose. Yes, their life might have got better. Some miracle cure, some work offer, a lottery win. Even if life is good, perhaps like Kennedy you prefer to go before you get a chance to really stuff things up so that 50 years later people are raving about how amazing you were, even though you didn't achieve anything except nearly start a nuclear war.

The world has a lot of people, I think we have reached a point where people should be given a choice of how, where, when and with who they want to spend their final moments. And I'm pretty sure no-one will chose being in excruciating pain, surrounded by doctors.
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Nov 29, 2013
This (and the previous entry) raised a lot of emotions and memories.

My father has assited death (not in all cases it had been suicide, as some patient were unconciuos or had serious brain damage) of several people by lethal injections. Don't get me wrong - he was not some sort of Doctor Death or anything, all agreed upon with the family members or the patients themselves (including my mum's father, absolutely concious and understanding, but in great pain due to the terminal cancer). And this was completely illegal. Those, who have lived in Soviet or early post-Soviet times would understand, that not many controls were put in place, and this was possible. However, I would doubt if something similar - even though on a smaller scale - is not happening in "civilised" Western countries where assited death is not legalised.

This was a huge huge burden to my father; I am sure it contributed to or accelerated his life destroying alcoholism. I would think - had it been legal, formalised and controlled process, had the decision been made under certain procedures, not by the sole decsion by my father (albeit with consent of the patient or family members) this would not have been so.

As a lawyer, I get a headache even trying to think how complicated the legalisation of assited death would be. However, it must be done - to ease the suffering of all the victims: patients, loved ones and doctors. So yeah, those of you who actively oppose - please, die slowly and in great pain.
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