Home
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?

 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +363
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:

Comments

Sort By:
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
A quibble: I shed a tear when a terrorist blows himself up. Most of the actual bombers are just foolish, misguided young men facing a fate worse than death. It's sad. I get over it pretty quick, but it's sad.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
@hooked

I'm good with that. If you don't believe in assisted suicide, don't request it for yourself. If you don't believe others should request assisted suicide, please sit down. It isn't up to you to make those decisions for someone else.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
So, basically here is the deal - if you believe in something it is OK by Scott, but if you stand up and fight for what you believe, suddenly he has a problem with you !!
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
@Dingbat

[The year Washington's Death with Dignity law passed, one of my teens was *extremely* upset..,..His reasoning, essentially, was that he loved his grandparents and didn't want them to die too soon. It was a very emotional topic for him. (I'm pretty confident Scott would be willing to exclude emotional 15-year-old activists from his karmic justice wish.) The law triggered a very strong protective instinct that was immune (at that time) to rational argument. If he ever has to watch a parent or grandparent suffer a slow, painful degrading death - those same compassionate, protective instincts would probably flip his perspective.]

Thats exactly the kind of person who needs to read Scotts blog. Someone who is feeling, not thinking, and needs to be shown, brutally, the consequences of his stance and forced to think about the pain this stance is causing. Because until folks like him DO think about it they're going to keep causing pain.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
Scott, why don't you create your own internet poll to combat the pollster-question-bias. You could use a SurveyMonkey survey or similar to achieve this.

I suspect that close to 100% of people would support this *after* having a loved one go through this torture, and a majority, though much smaller, for people that have not directly experienced this sort of situation in the past.

The numbers would be interesting.

BTW I totally agree with your viewpoint on this. My mother passed away early this year from lung cancer. Her battle was brief compared to some, and her health carers were compassionate. None the less, the overwhelming focus of the health care industry to maintain life regardless of quality was ever present.
 
 
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
Kuvuplan

I work with a program that teaches teenagers about the legislative process in Washington State. The year Washington's Death with Dignity law passed, one of my teens was *extremely* upset. He wrote a bill for our Mock legislative session to repeal it - and then debated it with several hundred other teens. His bill failed - and he was deeply upset by the experience.

His reasoning, essentially, was that he loved his grandparents and didn't want them to die too soon. It was a very emotional topic for him. (I'm pretty confident Scott would be willing to exclude emotional 15-year-old activists from his karmic justice wish.) The law triggered a very strong protective instinct that was immune (at that time) to rational argument.

If he ever has to watch a parent or grandparent suffer a slow, painful degrading death - those same compassionate, protective instincts would probably flip his perspective. (For the record, I know his parents and his grandparents and sincerely hope that does not happen!)

It's hard for many people to think rationally about such an emotional topic. To me it comes down to a question of personal agency. Competent people nearing the end of life should be able to make rational choices about how, when and where they want to die. We let people do all sorts of crazy self-destructive things in the name of personal agency. Not allowing them to die on their own terms because we are uncomfortable with the concept - or because we worry that some people will make the "wrong" decison just doesn't make sense.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
@Alien
I live in Oregon & doctor-assisted suicide (end-of-life) was voted in by Oregonians in 1994, and survived an attempted ballot recall in 1997 by 60% as I recall. It's the Death With Dignity Act (all constitutional measures are by popular vote in Oregon). The stats I found said 77 persons had used this option in 2012.

My extended family was touched by the DWD Act as my sister-in-law was admitted to an Oregon hospital 4 years go, no need for details but she was brain dead. The entire family was allowed extraordinary access to her & to hospital facilities while the determination was made over a period of two days that the Death With Dignity Act was applicable & was what her immediate family wanted to do. This was at a 7th Day Adventist, Christian hospital.

@ dgillane
to take a quote from abortion rights activists: if you're against suicide, don't have one. Please leave me out of your own personal morality.

@Melvin1
Please don't confuse Christianity or all Christian theologies with an anti-suicide bias, I believe you're thinking of Catholicism; my SIL was in a christian hospital & I am a practicing monthly-meeting Friend (Quaker). There is no anti-suicide bias rooted in either of those Christian faiths. Peace.
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
The other problem is that without doctor assisted suicide some people chose to take their own life much earlier than they otherwise would have chosen.

I had a relative who when faced with the prospect of a diseases that would eventually lead to diminished mental capacity and pain, chose to take his own life. Had he been allowed to setup a living will that allowed for doctor assisted suicide at a time of his choosing he could have live happily for months.
 
 
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
I was pretty dubious about doctor assisted suicide for a while, though I've since changed my position. When I was younger - and before I witnessed first hand how awful end of life options can be, my point of reference was my bat-sh*t crazy SIL - who would not hesitate to manipulate her own mother into requesting assisted suicide if it benefitted her. This is no exaggeration.

However - I've since realized that she would not be able to do so much damage if my mother-in-law did not allow it. She has managed to drain every resource that could have been used to make my MIL's life healthy and pleasant in her last years. Pressuring her to die would just be one more step in a long chain of crazy. It would still be my MiL's choice - just as it has been her choice to cave to every manipulation and lie her daughter has dreamed up in the last 50 years.

You can't withhold the rights of the many to make as important a decision as when and how to die - to cater to the crazy few. Evil, greedy crazy family members cause all sorts of chaos - and very little can be done to stop them - as long as family members enable it.

If evil family members end up pressuring elderly relatives to choose assisted suicide when they might otherwise have decided to live - that's a bad thing. It is also a bad thing when evil family members destroy the quality of life of other family members for their own benefit. As long as no-one involved is demonstrably incompetent or in a position of dependency, the second scenario is perfectly legal. You can't take away someone's personal agency - just because you don't like the decisions they make or whom they choose to associate with - no matter how righteous your pov. The first scenario should be legal as well - for exactly the same reason.
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
@Allen
Oregon's Law is doing fine.
http://www.deathwithdignity.org/2013/06/21/washingtons-2012-death-with-dignity-report

This conclusion says it all:
"... Annual reports published after particular milestones—five years, then ten years—were met with media attention and some national notice, but the most recent reports from Oregon and Washington have attracted little more than a brief note in regional publications.

The data haven't changed, and it's unfortunate more media attention isn't given to how the consistent statistics show these laws work and work well. Opponents of Death with Dignity laws will continue to pitch the same myths to make their case, but the data which disprove their false assertions simply isn't newsworthy these days."
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Death_with_Dignity_Act

42% of the voting population of Washington was opposed to it. Not 49% but pretty close.
I do not know the specific reasons the 42% were against it. Maybe many have changed their minds now that it has been in effect for a few years.
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
While a percentage of people may actively oppose something, I suspect a much larger percentage passively go along because they don't immediately need or want it themselves, and don't want to argue with fanatics. What generally turns the tide is the fanatics overplaying their hand and/or the passive majority seeing an issue impact their own lives and families.

In this case, a lot of people are trusting in God or genes to protect them personally from your father's fate, or they're simply refusing to even imagine it. Thus they can say "Life at any cost-- Yeah, I agree." I'd guess most of the people who have living wills and health care directives only got them after having an experience like yours.

More and more people are being subjected to that experience, or being close to others enduring it. They're beginning to see it's a far more likely scenario than a gentle deathbed scene. And as they view their own futures, they'll be less and less inclined to let the so-called "pro-lifers" dictate the rules. At least, that's my hope.

By the by, how did creationists take an interest? If anything, you'd think they'd be against science interfering with God's will as expressed by nature. My impression was that the vital-signs-at-all-costs rhetoric was sort of a PR move by anti-abortionists, trying to fabricate a moral consistency to veil a need to repress "disobedient" women.
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
Also not too sure about your distinction between those who are against doctor assisted suicide and those who are activists on the matter. Are you saying its somehow more acceptable to not stand up for what you believe?
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
And now that you seem to be ready to talk about this normally, Scott, I would like to say that I quite understand the tone of your last post as far as politicians and their supporters are concerned. It may have been, as you put it, uncivilized, but I understood what you were doing there (for a change) and am glad to see you confirm my guess.

At the same time, though, I beleive you were being too hard on the government.

For one thing, when you say 'the government' one can be forgiven for thinking you mean 'the federal government' and, as folks here have pointed out, the law varies from state to state, meaning its your California state government that has this policy. Just making sure we have the right target in mind.

For another, keep in mind that the government is not an entity in the normal sense of the word. One part of the government may be responsible for denying your parents the right to die but other parts of the government are completely independent of that and are doing a lot of good things for you. I assume you still want those other parts of the government to keep educating your stepchildren, feed poor folks and keep the streetlights on, yes?

But the most basic problem with that part of your rant is that the government doesnt have a mind of its own. It doesnt think long and hard about these matters the way a person does. It is a slave to the constitution, the press, the people, laws passed in the past and many other similar forces. You are right to attack those forces where they produce stupid results like this but dont be so hard on the government. It doesnt know any better.
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
I am against doctor-assisted suicide, but I am not an activist. I also happen to be against all forms of violence and against killing people. Where do I fit in the argument? Do I fit in the argument?
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
Sorry to repeat myself, but the discussion seems to have moved to this new blog and Id like an answer: would a living will have helped your parents avoid this situation Scott? What about other folks in similar situations? In some circles this seems to be regarded as a partial solution to this problem. Is it really? This is an important question to which I dont know the answer.
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
We should offer the same option (doctor-assisted suicide) to death-row inmates.

Anyone on death-row, could simply choose to walk into a special cell, where they get hooked up to an IV, and then the inmate presses a button which causes on overdoes of morphine to be administered.

I wonder how many would take the option? For those who are claiming innocence, or at least saying they didn't get a fair trial, I assume they wouldn't do it.
 
 
Nov 27, 2013
Gallup agrees that it depends on how you ask, but in any case it's not 49%: http://www.gallup.com/poll/162815/support-euthanasia-hinges-described.aspx
 
 
+22 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
I don't know if this contributes anything, but I've heard that as a generalization, wealthier people tend to favor assisted suicide because they want it available to them as an option. Poorer people tend to be against it out of fear that it will be pushed on them whether they want it or not. That might be part of why you're not seeing the 49% much in your own circles, as well as in your comments sections. The poor just aren't online quite as much.

Personally, I'd rather die a little sooner than suffer in agony while waiting for death to take me, but I have some sympathy with those who fear they might be pressured into an early exit once their healthcare gets too expensive. You could probably win those people to your side with reassurances that it could never be pushed on them or even available to them, unless they specifically took action to pursue it.
 
 
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 27, 2013
I am very sorry for your loss, and the !$%*!$%*!$%*! surrounding it.

There's a wrinkle to this discussion: what you are talking about is not really doctor-assisted suicide. The paradigmatic example of doctor-assisted suicide is something like what Kevorkian did -- the doctor sets up the machine, inserts the lines, and then the patient, *being of sound mind,* presses the button. The case of patients with severely diminished capacity is absolutely different because a patient with 98% mental function (which is how you described your father) does not have the capacity to sign a contract to buy a car, let alone commit suicide. Under the law, purposeful killing of another is always murder, no matter how well-intentioned (we read a case in law school about a man who shot his father who was suffering terribly from terminal illness -- and was convicted of murder). Of course, taking someone off life support or withholding food isn't counted as the same thing as an actual act that kills someone -- this distinction is also problematic.

The law doesn't seem quite right to me, and it may not seem quite right to many others. But what you're talking about -- taking positive steps to kill someone *who lacks mental capacity* -- is entirely different than doctor-assisted suicide, and orders of magnitude more tricky, from a legal and moral standpoint.
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog