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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Nov 29, 2013
I haven't read all the comments, so maybe this has come up in different forms.

Here's an exercise:
-suppose you suffer a terrible accident, and get completely paralyzed.
Also, suppose you don't have a lot of money.
Basically, you will suffer and will be a burden to your family for many years .
Would you like to be able to decide if you want to end your life?

If yes, why would you oppose that other people have this choice?

Nov 28, 2013
I'm a bit surprised by the people who don't understand Scott's differentiation between those who hold anti-euthanasia thoughts on the matter and those who act on it. It is much the same as the distinction we would make between those who thought slavery was wrong and those who acted to free slaves and voted to eradicate slavery. Clearly, simply thinking one way or another on a topic isn't meaningless, but it is far different from action. We don't laud people who never get around to doing good and we don't jail people who never get around to doing bad.

It isn't a matter of vilifying those who act on their beliefs necessarily. It is vilifying those who act on the belief that people who are in excruciating pain with nothing to look forward to but more pain and ultimately death. You don't get special credit for acting on your beliefs when they cause other people to suffer needlessly.
Nov 28, 2013
Hey - remember Terry Schiavo and "death panels" and the unfunded drug bonanza that is Medicare Part D? My mother is in hospice, and Dr. Kevorkian is a hero (excellent movie about him called "You Don't Know Jack"), so I share some of your sentiments, but why aren't you holding medical commercial interests and your fellow conservatives accountable? (I once read , to my dismay, that you were a conservative) Why blame the government? OR's gov't permits MD-assisted suicide. if you are, in fact, another anti-government conservative, you have to take responsibility yourself for supporting the corporate rule whose disregard for public health and sociopathic profiteering is poisoning us all. I do thank you for speaking out and speaking honestly.
Nov 28, 2013
My Mom asked me to kill her to end her suffering.
I replied that killing yourself is very easy. Her brother had done it and people do it every day.
She had a knife and could open her wrists using the correct technique which need not be elaborated on here.
If she wanted to do that, it was her choice and she had the ability.
It was my choice not to do it for her.

I understand it gets complicated for the people who lack the physical ability to take their own life or to communicate lucidly to a lawyer that they wish to withdraw all medical assistance.

My Mom chose to live(or failed to choose to act) and lived for 15 more years. The last 10 she did not know who I was, but she was always glad to have a visit. She wasn't in so much pain anymore and seemed happy with here life. I was just the nice man that came to visit her, sometimes she would think I was her youngest brother who was long dead.

Thanks to the web, it is now easy to find more humane and painless ways to end your life if you choose to.
I don't like the idea of anyone choosing for someone else that they be put to death based on what they know about the person.
If you haven't bothered to write a living will specifying otherwise, then it's assumed you want to live.

I'm Canadian and the suicide rate amongst elderly men is 3 times the average.

For Americans who want assisted suicide, the workaround may be to start a religion where that is one of the sacraments.
Nov 28, 2013
Scott, you are still in too much pain to really have a logical discussion of this topic. I understand, and it's OK.

There are many things in your post that appear contradictory to the general feel I have picked up over the years, concerning your overall political philosophy. But now is not the time to discuss them.

All I want to say, again, is that I am so very sorry for your loss, and for the emotional toll it appears to have taken on you. I hope you will be able to heal with the passing of time.
Nov 28, 2013

[All you're doing is emoting. Nothing more. You may consider your emoting to be "moral evaluation" but that doesn't make it so. It's just emoting; chemicals coursing through your bloodstream.]

Hes trying to keep other people from going through what he went through, namely, watching a loved one die painfully over months/years. And hes doing it by making a very powerful argument, one he hopes will make a difference in legislation. That strikes me as enough to be considered moral evaluation.

Still, you came up with something to say to Scotts post. That puts you ahead of the other right to die opponents who have read this blog.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2013
[But this is a topic that pits emotion against emotion.]

No, it's a topic which pits your emotion against sound, philosophical ideas of an objective moral standard. The fact that you argue from emotion doesn't mean everyone does.

[...you'd be missing the larger point that they are all examples of deeply immoral behavior.]

"Deeply immoral" according to what metric? And why is that metric the metric by which one can judge something to be "deeply immoral"?

The problem with your argument, Scott, is that you can't in one breath argue that we are simply animated meat responding to stimuli and then in the next breath argue that something done by animated meat is truly "immoral" in any meaningful sense.

All you're doing is emoting. Nothing more. You may consider your emoting to be "moral evaluation" but that doesn't make it so. It's just emoting; chemicals coursing through your bloodstream.

No one deserves to die because of chemicals in your bloodstream.

+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2013
I'm in the 51%, and I live in Virginia. I'm not in that NorCal bubble you refer to. I am well educated, a global traveler and able to get by in 8 languages. Surprisingly, I find myself favoring socially conservative stances on most things--but not this one.

I think you should look at a country which does allow doctor-assisted suicide--Holland. I am not a citizen of that fair country (even though I love spending time there, especially in the spring), but I have several friends there and I've discussed this topic with them. They maintain that while it is legal, it is rarely ever performed due to the legal documentation requirements and the incidence of family members suing the doctor. The doctor must spend time/money proving that he followed the patients directive to the letter, did every check possible, that the condition was terminal and have 0 chance of remission, and the level of pain the patient was experiencing.

I am in favor of the patient having a choice. It feels strange calling this "pro-choice", which has a negative connotation in other topics. However, as with anything, _implementation_ is everything. (I wanted to say *execution* is everything, but that sounded like a very bad pun.) A well implemented system will work smoothly and let people die with dignity. A poorly implemented system will never get used because it's more painful to use doctor-assisted suicide than to live out life in pain.
Nov 28, 2013
Regarding the 49% issue, I'd be very interested to see Nate Silver do an analysis of the polling data on this subject.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2013
I thought activists are supposed to be in the minority. Isn't that the whole point? You have to be especially "active" to get your point across.

Being an activist when the law is already on your side and being enforced? That just equates to being an a$$.

But besides that, if you're going to be an activist, I believe that reasons for being against anti-doctor-assisted-suicide should at least go beyond purely religious grounds. For example, ensuring that any financial gains can't sway the decision to pull the plug.
But as others point out, keeping patients just barely alive can be lucrative for others as well.

My father died of cancer, but he insisted on staying alive until he could give a proper farewell to the entire family (we were spread all over the world); he deliberately rejected morphine injections, because he knew it would speed up death, and despite being in severe pain.
After the whole family was able to join together for his farewell, he finally asked for a large shot of morphine to "reduce pain". The nurses offered an even larger dose and we said yes.
I don't know what to call it exactly, but to me it was the "right" way, and nothing religious about it.

My case is somewhat simplified, but it would have been horrible if we (including him) had been denied any control over his passing. It's horrible that Scotts family was denied that control.

Any argument against that would HAVE to involve patient protection against some kind of widespread abuse/malpractice. Any person with less of an argument must simply be an a$$.

My guess is that creationists vigorously pursue such an agenda because they view their religion as constantly under attack and feel a need to compensate; even if it means kicking others over whom they already have the upper hand.
Nov 28, 2013
Apart from the theological arguments, the only argument that some people have to deny terminally ill patients and their family/doctors the right to terminate life is the fear that the freedom will be misused by some people later.
So show me one freedom which has not been misused at some time.

Also, how can one person's fear of what MAY happen in the future take precedence over another man's right to his own body and soul in the present, especially when the former is thinking about the issue in abstract theoretical terms for a few minutes and then moving on in his comfortable life while the latter is spending every living moment in anguish wishing for death.

If "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" are constitutionally guaranteed rights, then the right to choose Death automatically follows.

BTW, religions say it is a sin to end life but religions also believe in eternal life. Theologically, you could not kill yourself if you tried.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2013

I think 49% of the Country is terrified of freedom. There is no one else to blame.

We are fearful of being responsible for our own decisions, and actions, and consequences.

One cannot play the victim in a free society.

I vote - Me, my doctor and my loved ones

Why doesn't my Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions cover this issue? The most valuable thing I control is my life, why don't I have the power to make that decision?

Many people are already in terrible pain, I don't understand the government's attitude toward pain management. Why isn't that a decision made by some combination of you, your doctor and your loved ones?

In Montana one can get an "Aid in Dying" prescription. It requires mental competence, so not really the same thing, but maybe a step in the right direction.

I don't trust a government's agenda. Are they really a trusted friend with my best interest at heart?

At least with a bear, I can trust it to be a bear.

Nov 28, 2013
totally agree with you Scott

I have MS and at some point in the future will be kept alive despite being in lots of pain and having no quality of life. Apparently it's not up to me if I would rather be dead, that decision was taken by some faceless bureaucrat without asking me.
Nov 28, 2013
"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?""

Firstly, most people are aware that not everyone makes the right decision for themself/their family, even if "freedom" makes better soundbites than paternalism. In my experience, anyway, most people assume THEY would of course make the right decision but you can't trust all those other idiots.

Secondly, as you, um, say immediately afterwards, many people are worried the system wouldn't necessarily base it's decisions purely on their wishes. It's hard to tell if they're right based on pure facts, of course, although both sides claim they can.
Nov 28, 2013
Actually 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?
<a href="http://reviewlization.blogspot.com/">Health Information</a>
Nov 28, 2013
My take. One you may not necessarily be open hearing after such a brutal experience (one over which I expressed my condolences in the previous post, but one which I will repeat here).

This is probably the first time in your life you've ever experienced "the other side" of American law. You, in a position most people are not familiar with, suffered due to misguided legislation of that majority. You finally hit something that could not be solved with hard work and smarts.

Has your experience altered your view on anything else?

(I know this one experience is deeply personal and unknowably painful, and if this isn't the time for such things, I *completely* understand)
Nov 28, 2013
I'm with you Scott. The government nor an activist should decide what's best for me. Thankfully, both of my parents never suffered, as yours did. However, I have known others that suffered a lingering death that may have been alleviated. I have made it known to my next of kin and executor, personally and through a living will, my end of life/ quality of life requests. I will also forward this column to them.
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2013
"I'm just saying I wouldn't shed a tear if an activist opposed to doctor-assisted-suicide died a painful death."

Great, so you have something in common with the anti-abortionists who don't shed a tear when a abortion clinic doctor gets assassinated.

I think you're hostility is unproductive. Most people who oppose doctor assisted suicide are doing so based theological beliefs. They believe they're defending a moral imperative. You may disagree based on your own beliefs, but your beliefs are no more empirically right than theirs. Ultimately it's a difference of opinion about a very sensitive topic. If you really want to change opinions and laws you don't start the conversation by saying "no offense but I wish you were dead."

Nov 28, 2013
Sorry, wanted to give you our web address (for permission) www.dignitysa.org.
Nov 28, 2013
Thank you, Scott, for your contribution to the right-to-die debate. When people say "doctors shouldn't play God", are they not already doing that when a person is dying and they either save the person's life, or prolong their suffering - as the case may be? As for the hippocratic oath, "first do no harm" means just that. If someone is suffering, already dying, begging for release... is not keeping them alive against their wishes doing harm? People need to talk about this subject. You have helped to ensure they do. For this I thank you. I have followed the comments with an almost religious fervour and agree with your stats that 95% of people who commented are in favour of an Assisted Death. Whose life is it anyway? My life. My choice. Please may we have permission to post your two blogs on our website? All due credit given where it is due, of course.
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