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August 02, 2009



All in all, pressure to legalise assisted suicide seems to be emerging as part of a frankly disturbing useless mouths discourse.

Are there any actual examples of people arguing for assisted suicide on that basis?


In fact I'd offer you a rather different set of circumstances that has brought the discussion to its present state:

(a) massive improvements in medical care which mean people live - and can live - much longer than they used to, sometimes in a prolonged condition which people often do not find tolerable (either thinking about it as a prospect, or actually living through it) and which would, in earlier times, probably have killed them relatively quickly ;

(b) increasing awareness that this doesn't have to be the case because the means to reliably put an end to life are available ;

(c) a number of instances of such cases reaching public attention and making, cumulatively, a critical mass ;

(d) the impossibility of maintaining the previous situation of having laws saying one thing and practice doing another, simply because of the public nature of these cases and the fact that they have challenged that existing law ;

(e) a much wider process in which people have discovered that they have access to personal rights in law - both those explicitly written and those which may be inferred or argued for - and have a desire and the will to exercise those rights.

None of these factors affect the fact that as a practical matter, assisted suicide is fraught with all sorts of difficulties including some very obvious possibilities for abuse, but that neither means that the present situation of hypocrisy can stand, nor that this is the reason why it is being challenged. Finding a satisfactory solution is quite likely beyond the wit of anybody, but this one is out of the box now and it won't go back in.


The whole thing also dovetails pretty neatly with the government’s constant nagging on public health issues. One must stay productive for the longest possible time, after all, before becoming a charge on family and state.

But this isn't the government's nagging; or at least, it's not only them doing the nagging. I want my colleagues, friends, family, team members, etc. to remain in good shape; that is, avoid the bad stuff, whether that's value packs of Twinkies or tar pits. I'd say it's a fairly near universal norm. What's repellent about New Labour is their persistent blind spot; blame poor individuals for choosing badly, do nothing to moderate the ways in which foodstuffs, alcohol, etc. are produced and marketed by organisations with an advantage. Normatively, they are a lopsided broadcaster.


Are there any actual examples of people arguing for assisted suicide on that basis?

Not now, but the idea that the old and ill are useless tends to erode the basis of the opposition to it: it's the shadow side of the personal autonomy argument. On the positive arguments I think your schema is right and I think it'll happen sooner or later, but I think a lot of the consequences are likely to be pretty horrible. It gives a means of putting all sorts of horrible ideas floating out there into action.

Tim Worstall

"In this case, the needs of the suicides to be and those who would help them may be better addressed by much greater judicial discretion. At the very least, any such case should trigger a pretty rigorous police investigation including full access to the financials. "

Quite, keep it a crime to be investigated and let a jury sort out whether it was indeed mercy killing or not, truly desired by the deceased or not.


Worstall in absence of compassion and reality-avoidance shock


Actually, the only people I've seen arguing this are Whatshername "whose kid are you?" Scarisbrick and. ahem, Tim Worstall.

Cian O'Connor

One thing to be really wary of is the comparative lack of hospices. A good hospice can make a huge difference to quality of life and pain management. People wanting to end it despite having the best access to pain management/care is one thing, people wanting to end it without that access is something else entirely. But I suspect without public pressure that is what we'll get.

Cian O'Connor

Another thing. We live in a culture where "Do Not Resucitate" notices are routinely placed over the beds of physically disabled and mentally impaired individuals, without asking their opinion (yes this probably illegal, or at least against guidelines, but it's still routine). Given this, what are the odds that legalised euthenasia will be responsibly administered?


Meanwhile, while everyone here gets all tore up about Dignitas, Tory snackthinker A.N. Wilson comes right out with it, gets his crazy on, and demands the establishment of T-4 and the compulsory sterilisation of life unworthy of life.

I am not joking. Stand here while we sort out your housing benefit form! *Bzzt*

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