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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 13, 2013
Deborah Orr in the Guardian has this to say:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/13/supporting-right-to-die-risks
(Supporting the right to die always runs the risk of diminishing the right to live)

Personally I see too many facets to this one to really be able to make a conclusive judgement.
 
 
Dec 13, 2013
The pastor makes a very good point. We do not talk enough about death and dying, and as a result, we make life-and-death decisions when we are ill-informed and often under great emotional strain. The recent article in the NYT about the end-of-life choices made by doctors exemplifies this.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/your-money/how-doctors-die.html?_r=0

Scott, I am deeply sorry for your loss and for the suffering of your father. My grandmother was in a similar situation, and managed to find the courage and physical strength to take her own life. I am so proud of her for taking that choice, but still (15 years on) angered that her suicide was a painful, lonely event, rather than a peaceful exit surrounded by her family, as it could have been. I understand and respect your rationale for moving on from this topic, but am saddened that an important cause will not have the advocacy it deserves.
 
 
Dec 9, 2013
I would have said something against doctor assisted suicide, as it is an import idea to debate and challenge, but my warning alarms (usually they are silent) were going off at the time. So let's assume there are more people out there who are against it, but for those following your blog, they either weren't reading in that time period or had the sense to back off.

If you honestly wanted a real debate on it, maybe you should have waited a bit.
 
 
Dec 5, 2013
I think book sales slump because, for anyone who comes across this blog, 'Scott Adams' is no longer simply the guy who produces those wonderful cartoons that assuage pain and bring joy and laughter to millions. He is now the bitter guy with the dead father looking for a fight on physician assisted suicide.

[That's probably 1% of it. -- Scott]
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2013
Pastor, sorry for your loss and your Dad's suffering. I hope he is in a better place.
 
 
Dec 5, 2013
I waited to chime in because I am a pastor and I know that many of your followers will automatically dismiss what I have to say (hmmm ... maybe I shouldn't have pastoresch as my sign in name?) Oh well ... here goes anyhow ... I think the 49% to who people refer are those folks who simply don't know what to do in times of suffering and impending death. We as a society are simply ill prepared to deal with death ... 80% of obituaries don'1 even use the term "died" , it's "passed on" or some other phrase. Everything is geared around extending life at all costs ... so when it comes to assisted suicide people get all nervous and since they haven't thought about it they panic ... "is this really the right thing to do?" My father just died on Nov. 30 2013 after a long illness and much discomfort, especially in the last months ... assisted suicide didn't come up ... we talked about death and dying and were prepared to ride it out ... so was Dad ... kind of a God's will thing. I know this doesn't work for everyone but for some (maybe 49% ... probably closer to 20%) it is the way to go. I am for assisted suicide laws to be available for those who need it ... government shouldn't need to be consulted ... none of their damn business. We need more talking and reality about death and dying in this country!

[You seem entirely reasonable. No dismissing here. -- Scott]
 
 
Dec 5, 2013
Remind me not to forget the smiley-face on the joking part of my post again.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2013


I forgot:
...and you think the government isn't regulating the very breath from your lungs?
(Clean Air Act - CO2 emissions and global warming)

OK, moving on.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2013
From a government authority argument:

The Government makes end of life decisions every day. Who to incarcerate for life and who to execute.
You may object, but it does and should.

Yes the government has the authority to force you to do, and not do, as it sees fit, for the benefit for someone else and at your expense.
It has the manpower and equipment to carry out it's will. And you have provided the funds.

It has the authority to take money from your paycheck and force you to save for your retirement. (Social security)
It has the authority to:
tell you when to move forward in your car and when to stop (stop lights)
to search you (TSA)
force you to labor (taxes)
take your house from you (eminent domain)
take your children away from you (child services)
incarcerate you (prison)
to invade another country (iraq)
to force you to kill (draft)
to end your life (death penalty)

to stop you from having babies (china)
force you to wear clothing (hijab)
slave labor (north korea)

Of course the government has the right to hold you at it's will (Extraordinary rendition)

Of course the government tortures you. (enhanced interrogation techniques)


And it gives itself the authority to do any of these things, and oversees and regulates itself.

The government makes all these decisions and takes all of these actions over the objections of somebody.


It's illegal? The government doesn't participate in torture? The law?
The government does what it wants to do.

What is your Father to them?
 
 
Dec 5, 2013
By the way...

For those who oppose euthanasia on the basis that God thinks life is sacred, I don't have a bible in front of me, but I seem to remember a passage where Enoch talked to God and God smote 60,000 men.

Not to mention the whole flood thing where he killed off all of us except Noah and his family of boat refugees. A few paragraphs later, Noah makes wine, gets drunk, embarasses his children, who cover him up by walking in backwards and he wakes up and curses them (with the understanding that curses carry over to the next generation).

So that's the folks God saved, and we're all descended from Adam, Eve and them.

Turns out, we can always make more.
 
 
Dec 5, 2013
Wow. Lots of good and weird ideas floating around here!

I'm not going to get into all the pseudo-religious/philosophical existence/experience and other esoteric stuff, rather, I'll just state my position baldly:

I believe that people should have the right to die with dignity and not suffer unnecessary pain, suffering and expense because of some strange notion that a life is invaluable even when what's left is worthless.

I would argue that end of life issues are none of the government's gosh darn business beyond reasonably trying to assure that my sister or Dr. Kevorkian weren't another Madoff.

If I'm in pain, failing, and the end is obviously near, with no reasonable hope of recovery, I really, really want to go just like my last cat. I would also like to be smoking medical marijuana and listening to good music at the time. A hand-job would be nice.

Part of the reason healthcare costs are so high and everybody fears death so much is that we drag it out so dang much. There's a time for everything, including your own death.

When it's my time, I hope I'll be like the old chief in the movie Little Big Man - "It's a good day to die."
 
 
Dec 4, 2013
" to a rational person who would answer yes to the government having veto power over your end-of-life wishes, your doctor's advice, and your family's preferences?"

I am rational (sr posts at Amazon and Microsoft), and definitely pro assisted suicide (openly debated on the side of Kevorkian Civil Disobedience).

The exact wording to your question requires a yes, to my dismay. I am libertarian by nature, but recognize the central role of government in our advancement as a culture and society. We live 10x better that 100 years ago. Some governments were worse than other, so it took them 60 years to get to the same point. Governments matter and are powerful and do bad things, however do more good than bad (if I am honest with my history.)

So I think you can respect that it is trivial to construct a scenario where your answer is yes, and so could not close the door.

Even if I were to ease the question significantly, and ask the same question with TODAYs AMERICAN government, rather than an arbitrary situation, I would still have to painfully say yes.

Because you listed four agents: Government, doctor, dying person, family. Further you said that it was Government against a unanimity of the other three. So the government must write broad laws, because narrow laws cause corruption. I dislike corruption so accept broad laws.

Of the three actors, presumably the dying person is disabled (but has a living will), and presumably you could doctor shop. So that leaves the family and the possibility of a living will. I think that leaves a lot of room for disagreeable outcomes. I struggled for years after putting down a cat. These are no small issues. I am pro choice, but have witnessed up close the raw emotion involved in abortion.

I believe that you and I would do a good job with such a decision. What if there was conflict in the family? Do we insert a 5th agent such as a judge? If the most important driver of medical suicide is the preference of family and living will, does this allow a family to refuse pain medication because they believe in death with full mental clarity?

I see no way to keep government out of these decisions. Once they are in these decisions, they become political. When they are political then you have to wait generations for hearts to change. Maybe the 49% number (people opposed to medical suicide) is wrong, but It seems obvious to me that the number was higher in past generations than it is now.

I also see a legitimate need to put boundaries on Doctors. We don't want them experimenting on radical techniques or risking death unnecessarily. It makes sense that they should not be the instruments of suicide. And nor should family. Maybe we can have a new societal role: Mercy killer. But that gets tricky too.

I mean all I said above, and yet want the same as you, having moved in with my Mom in her last painful years. I think the politics lie in the emotional argument first STOP TORTURING DYING PEOPLE. Forget all the rest of the argument. Make the people who are defending their status quo's suggest solutions, rather than setting yourself up as a target which only gives them a tool to defend their status quo. You can always tell an immoral argument, because it starts with an Ad Hominem of a victim (if you see a doctor complaining about Scott Adams, you know what I mean).

But the REALLY fascinating issue is that people need to look away. I found this out in the Kevorkian days. People can't face death. People who talk about death look like reapers. Talk instead about life, dignity and pain. You need to, because you are right.
 
 
Dec 4, 2013
" to a rational person who would answer yes to the government having veto power over your end-of-life wishes, your doctor's advice, and your family's preferences?"

I am rational (sr posts at Amazon and Microsoft), and definitely pro assisted suicide (openly debated on the side of Kevorkian Civil Disobedience).

The exact wording to your question requires a yes, to my dismay. I am libertarian by nature, but recognize the central role of government in our advancement as a culture and society. We live 10x better that 100 years ago. Some governments were worse than other, so it took them 60 years to get to the same point. Governments matter and are powerful and do bad things, however do more good than bad (if I am honest with my history.)

So I think you can respect that it is trivial to construct a scenario where your answer is yes, and so could not close the door.

Even if I were to ease the question significantly, and ask the same question with TODAYs AMERICAN government, rather than an arbitrary situation, I would still have to painfully say yes.

Because you listed four agents: Government, doctor, dying person, family. Further you said that it was Government against a unanimity of the other three. So the government must write broad laws, because narrow laws cause corruption. I dislike corruption so accept broad laws.

Of the three actors, presumably the dying person is disabled (but has a living will), and presumably you could doctor shop. So that leaves the family and the possibility of a living will. I think that leaves a lot of room for disagreeable outcomes. I struggled for years after putting down a cat. These are no small issues. I am pro choice, but have witnessed up close the raw emotion involved in abortion.

I believe that you and I would do a good job with such a decision. What if there was conflict in the family? Do we insert a 5th agent such as a judge? If the most important driver of medical suicide is the preference of family and living will, does this allow a family to refuse pain medication because they believe in death with full mental clarity?

I see no way to keep government out of these decisions. Once they are in these decisions, they become political. When they are political then you have to wait generations for hearts to change. Maybe the 49% number (people opposed to medical suicide) is wrong, but It seems obvious to me that the number was higher in past generations than it is now.

I also see a legitimate need to put boundaries on Doctors. We don't want them experimenting on radical techniques or risking death unnecessarily. It makes sense that they should not be the instruments of suicide. And nor should family. Maybe we can have a new societal role: Mercy killer. But that gets tricky too.

I mean all I said above, and yet want the same as you, having moved in with my Mom in her last painful years. I think the politics lie in the emotional argument first STOP TORTURING DYING PEOPLE. Forget all the rest of the argument. Make the people who are defending their status quo's suggest solutions, rather than setting yourself up as a target which only gives them a tool to defend their status quo. You can always tell an immoral argument, because it starts with an Ad Hominem of a victim (if you see a doctor complaining about Scott Adams, you know what I mean).

But the REALLY fascinating issue is that people need to look away. I found this out in the Kevorkian days. People can't face death. People who talk about death look like reapers. Talk instead about life, dignity and pain. You need to, because you are right.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 4, 2013

>>One of the most powerful statements from the Bible is when Jesus was dying on the cross, following seriously cruel torture, he said "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing".

So if my Father is being tortured by a merciful, just God, I should ask for forgiveness for God?

Forgiveness is a placebo. It doesn't change reality, it just changes your thinking. Is that God, a placebo? For those that don't believe, it doesn't work?

Placebo's don't heal amputees. Neither does God.

 
 
Dec 4, 2013
By framing the question as "do I think that the government should have a veto over my end of life decisions?" you are also putting some slant on it. After all, the question is not whether I or you want the government to have a veto over our respective end of life decisions, but rather how we as a society will choose to address the issue for all of us. "Veto" also might suggest some kind of case-by-case, conscious consideration, but so far a law on this topic seems to be a binary choice for the whole society. The primary non-religious, non-ideological reason that I am familiar with to oppose legalizing assisting the end of life is the potential for abuse. Even if we agree that a fully aware patient in terrible pain should be able to choose such assistance, we might oppose legalizing such assistance because we are not comfortable that we will be able to sufficiently screen out the !$%*!$% that is trying to off his senile grandmother to speed his inheritance. Once legalized, there would be regulations and/or court rulings on specific cases, there would eventually arise a kind of death checklist, and society would need to police whether people were assisting or murdering one another. We may as a society decide that we are not comfortable with that responsibility. I find this a difficult question. I don’t expect that this will change your mind, especially as it seems that you may have experienced the protracted death of a loved one, but I hope you will conclude that there is room on the other side for many who are neither nut jobs nor fooled.

[You could say my question puts a slant on things. Or you could say you can't get the right answer unless you ask the right question. And government control is the right question, not "Should my doctor be allowed to kill me?" -- Scott]
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 4, 2013

I'll take a shot at it....
I'll take a stab at it...
(so violent.)
I'll spend 5 minutes and give it a go.
-------------------------

1.

If I believe in the inalienable rights of man, such as "all men are created equal" then no matter the form of government nor country one lives in, everyone (should be) equal under the law. I will (should) fight to support your rights and no one can (should be allowed) to take them away from you.

That would include defending anyone brainwashed to think they have no such rights.

If I believe in an inalienable law, "thou shalt not murder", everyone one should be protected from being murdered.

Protection from murder includes an unborn baby, an unconscious person, and any one of unsound mind. Suicide is self-murder.

That would also include defending anyone who is brainwashed to think they have no such right not to be murdered.



2.

Living in severe pain is being tortured.
Anyone who is being tortured is not in their right mind.

Someone making decisions about ending their own life while being tortured, is not capable of making that decision, and should be stopped from action.

The proper solution is to relieve the pain. There are other methods of relieving pain other than death.



3.

If an unbreakable oath is, "do no harm", and all doctors cannot break that oath, doctor assisted suicide is breaking that oath.



4.

If doctors make mistakes, then every prognosis of "terminal" might be a mistake.
Suicide and murder is not allowed if a mistake is a possibility.



5.

One should be removed from a prison of torture for relief.
One should not see murder as a merciful act because it stops the torture.
Your efforts should be helping someone escape the torture.
If you do not see the escape route, the limitation is yours.



6.

If someone is being tortured, you have a duty to stop the torture.
You must attempt to remove them from prison, even if they are killed in the process, accidentally.



7.

What if they are still actually in a dreamworld, despite the brain monitors. Don't they have a right to enjoy that world?



8.

If you wish to commit suicide, you are by definition of unsound mind, and should be prevented from doing so.


9.

If you wish to commit murder, you are by definition of unsound mind, and should be prevented from doing so.




If you break the 7th commandment you will not get into heaven. I have to stop you for your own good.
You don't know the mind of God, do not question Him.
Oh, wait, I'm already saved and I'm going to heaven, so I don't care what you do.
In fact kill me now so I can finally leave this sinful place and be with God.
Why would I want to stay here if heaven is such a nice place anyway?
Sorry, got carried away.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 4, 2013
@anothermick

You said “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.”

At the risk of sounding Clintonian, your argument depends on what the definition of existence is. I think you’re defining existence too narrowly. It seems to me that you are defining existence as the thing that allows one to have experience. But what is existence without experience? From here on out, I’ll try to keep it a little less existential, and I’ll assume we’re only concerned with things that exist that also have experiences.

I think you are limiting existence to an individual’s static point in time that precedes an individual’s experience, as in some point after (assumedly) conception. When is existence for an individual then – conception or birth, knowledge of one’s own existence, the present? If it is any single point, then I think it would be fair to compare existence to any single experience – in which case, I think it would be reasonable for people who are experiencing significant pain and suffering to make the determination of which is primary. But experience can’t exist without existence, and since we experience many things over a period of time, existence must be a timeline. If existence is a timeline, assumedly from conception or birth (or some other point that you choose) to “natural” or “unassisted” death (or some other point you choose), then I think one could compare ones future existence to sum of ones future experiences, in which case, I think it would be reasonable for people who are experiencing significant pain and suffering to make the determination of which is primary. If you look at existence on a timeline, the decision isn’t to eliminate one’s existence in its entirety, merely one’s future existence. I doubt that you are arguing that by ending one’s life means that one never existed.

Is existence limited to an individual, and if so how would one determine existence of the individual? Is it an individual’s ability to perceive one’s own existence? If so, does an infant exist? Does a comatose individual exist? Do you cease to exist when you sleep? Does a senile person exist? I think so, so assuming they can’t perceive their own existence, they exist because others can perceive them. This also supports the idea that one’s existence is a timeline, and that one’s existence doesn’t get destroyed when one dies. Likewise, all existence doesn’t end, when you die, sorry to break that to you. :) In any case, existence, once attained, can’t be destroyed since an individual existence doesn’t exist in a void – it lives in concert with all things that experience it as a part of everything that exists. Since everything that exists is a sum of all things that exist, an individual’s existence effects the experience of others in existence. Existence therefore cannot be limited to an individual. If one then makes a decision that his existence is primary to his experience, which is certainly his prerogative, isn’t that person also determining that his existence is also primary to all those others experiences of his existence? This probably isn’t a problem most of the time, and we all probably think that to some degree. However, when the person in question is suffering tremendously, and thereby inflicting suffering on others who care about him, wouldn’t that person be terribly narcissistic and selfish to insist that his FUTURE existence (since his past existence is not in question) is primary to his AND everyone else’s current and future experience which is also more miserable because of it? It’s is kind of funny that in either case, the experience of perception is required to determine existence, which seems to be an argument for experience’s primacy over existence.

So, unless you want to get very existential, at which point, all of this will become (even more) absurd, I think you should admit that, at the very least, “there is a logical argument to be made that” experience “is more important than” existence.
 
 
Dec 4, 2013
Scott,

I wasn't registered and thought you were pretty attentive to the facebook comments, so I responded to yesterday's post there. I'm reposting here now:

By framing the question as "do I think that the government should have a veto over my end of life decisions?" you are also putting some slant on it. After all, the question is not whether I or you want the government to have a veto over our respective end of life decisions, but rather how we as a society will choose to address the issue for all of us. "Veto" also might suggest some kind of case-by-case, conscious consideration, but so far a law on this topic seems to be a binary choice for the whole society. The primary non-religious, non-ideological reason that I am familiar with to oppose legalizing assisting the end of life is the potential for abuse. Even if we agree that a fully aware patient in terrible pain should be able to choose such assistance, we might oppose legalizing such assistance because we are not comfortable that we will be able to sufficiently screen out the !$%*!$% that is trying to off his senile grandmother to speed his inheritance. Once legalized, there would be regulations and/or court rulings on specific cases, there would eventually arise a kind of death checklist, and society would need to police whether people were assisting or murdering one another. We may as a society decide that we are not comfortable with that responsibility. I find this a difficult question. I don’t expect that this will change your mind, especially as it seems that you may have experienced the protracted death of a loved one, but I hope you will conclude that there is room on the other side for many who are neither nut jobs nor fooled.

Best regards,
Ryan
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 4, 2013
Scott: "My book's sales rank has dropped since I started hammering on this topic"
You sure that's a causal relationship?
Most book sales drop off after an initial rush.
 
 
Dec 4, 2013
To piggyback on what priceymark said, I think the issue is somewhat more complex than you are portraying it as (for the record, this is something of a devil’s advocate argument I’m about to make here, personally I don’t really care about this topic a whole lot, but I consider it an interesting debate).

Obviously, the reason assisted suicide is illegal is the very legitimate concern that such power could be abused and/or improperly applied. There’s a lot of grey area here that you aren’t addressing. I think we’d all agree that if you’re on your way to a meeting with a coworker and they say to you “I’d rather die than go to this meeting,” that doesn’t give you the legal justification to pull out a hammer and cave in their skull. Nobody is in favor of that. On the other hand, in the typical example of “terminally ill elderly relative who has repeatedly and consistently asked to have their life ended for the sole purpose of alleviating great pain caused by a hopeless condition,” well, you’d see very few people who oppose the notion that someone could help them do that.

But there are a lot of tricky issues regarding the specifics. Who gets to help them? By what methods? How do we know, for sure, that it’s what they truly want? Can this only happen if someone is terminally ill? What if they’re suffering from a painful, but not life-threatening, condition? Should there be age limits involved? Does an 80-year old cancer patient have the right to die, but a 25-year old not enjoy that right? Can this only be done by a doctor with some sort of chemical inducement, or should the next of kin be allowed to hold a pillow over their loved one’s face?

I think the general reasoning behind this is the notion that the decision to end one’s life is so personal, so serious, and so irreversible, that ONLY the person whose life is at stake should be allowed to make it (the silliness of suicide being illegal notwithstanding). Now obviously, in some cases, the person who would like to make it is simply physically unable to accomplish it without assistance. Any provision to allow others to assist opens up a possibility that those provisions would be exploited and might potentially result in a legitimate, honest-to-goodness murder. You can look back to the Terry Schiavo case for a famous example of a divided family, arguing over what the person in question would have wanted.

The fact is, it’s complicated. Your specific case might not have been, but plenty of cases are, and many more potentially could be (note: I posit to you that if you had simply held a pillow over your father’s face, there aren’t many juries on Earth that would convict you of murder given the !$%*!$%*!$%*!$% Government doesn’t tend to do a very good job when it comes to issues that are nuanced, have plenty of grey areas, and vary wildly depending on unique and specific !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ In general, government issues one-size-fits-all proclamations and beats up anyone who dares go against them. In this case, “society” has decided that it’s better, in order to avoid the possibility of murder, to just ban the practice entirely, rather than have to deal with the complicated issues involved. While I don’t necessarily think that’s the best approach, it certainly isn’t an uncommon way for large groups to deal with tricky problems.
 
 
 
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