I'll start with a question.

If you, your doctors, and your family all agree on an end-of-life healthcare strategy to minimize your suffering, should the government be allowed to veto your choice?

Before you answer, keep in mind that the government's veto might devastate your family's psychological and economic health. Who is onboard with letting the government make those decisions over the wishes of you, your family, and your doctor?

I ask because I've never met anyone who would prefer the government to have veto control over their own healthcare decisions. That's why I think the debate over doctor-assisted suicide is a fake debate.

My hypothesis is that the alleged 49% of the country opposed to doctor-assisted suicide is more like 1% nut jobs and 48% people who got tricked by a poll question that was some form of "Should the government allow your doctor to kill you if it seems convenient?"

But I try to be open-minded. I really do. Can anyone point me 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?

It's no fair rewording my question into something you DO object to. I'm looking for someone willing to say proudly and loudly that the government should make their end-of-life decisions for them over their own wishes, the advice of doctors, and the wishes of their family. Any takers?

I submit that that person does not exist. If I am wrong, I'd like to debate you right here. Please show yourself. Maybe I'll learn something.

In the unlikely event such a person exists, and cannot be swayed with simple information such as the success stories of similar systems elsewhere, that brings us to the second topic on my list.

It turns out that having an outspoken opinion about anything important in this world is very bad for business. The folks who disagree with you on any sensitive topic will use it as a reason to take their business elsewhere.

That leaves no one but the nut jobs to dominate the debate. Sane people stay out of the line of fire.

Now here's the interesting part: I just became an orphan.

Living parents are a huge limiting force on a writer. I was always worried about embarrassing them. They trained me to be that way. I'm now freed from that restriction. (The rest of the family wouldn't much care.)

My remaining reason to self-censor is purely economic. In my unique case, 100% of the money I earn for the rest of my life will be spent for the benefit of others. I already have enough for my own needs. The main reason I keep working is because I am in a rare position to make an oversized contribution to the economy, and perhaps add value in other ways. Apparently I am genetically inclined to find that prospect satisfying if not necessary. I don't want my valuable business engine to clog up just because I was outspoken on an emotional topic. That wouldn't be fair to a lot of people in the value chain who were minding their own business.

So I'm going to offer you (the public) an arrangement. If my new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything..." hits #1 on the NYT non-fiction list I will be freed of my last remaining reason to self-censor. And I will drive a stake through the government's heart on this doctor-assisted suicide topic.

You haven't seen me uncensored. You might enjoy the show.

I'll even sweeten the deal. I guarantee that you know someone who would benefit from the book. That person might be you, or it might be someone in your life who is making suboptimal career and lifestyle decisions and doesn't want your advice. The book is designed like one of those soft dog treats inside of which you hide the dog's medicine. The reader won't even see the useful stuff coming.

If you're counting, that's three potential benefits from one book: The book might help you personally, or at least entertain you. It might help someone you care about (after you read it first, of course). And it might free me to jackhammer some rational thought into the end-of-life debate.

Or you could just buy clothes for everyone on your shopping list. Clothes are fun too.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.

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Dec 31, 2013
What are your thoughts on the Jahi McMath case? It is indeed a tragedy, but we have a situation where the parents are not accepting a scientific analysis of multiple doctors. They are understandably emotionally distraught. Now imagine a similar case where the parents want to keep a deceased child on life support where the taxpayers are paying for the medical care. In such a case wouldn't the government have a voice in ending the life since it is paying for the care?
Dec 5, 2013
First of all, I share your views on the subject. One possibility is that the 49% do not really want the government making these decisions as much as they really don;t want you and your family making them. They may have strong religious beliefs that say that only God should make these decisions, so if the government is preventing you from doing so, that is good enough for them. Not sure how many of those people read your blog, though, so you may not get that sample here.
Dec 5, 2013
personally i find this very annoying to read scott recommending big govt shouldnt have veto power over personal decisions.

allowing ppl control over their lives is anathema to his philosophy of setting things 'right', for ppl's 'best interest'.

it makes me want to puke for a borg collectivist thinker to suddenly value personal autonomy, even when it conflicts with the 'greater good' and the 'general welfare'.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 4, 2013
"Can anyone point me 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?"
For sick (or old) people, being able to give informed consent, I'd say their death-wishes should override the wishes of relatives or the government.
But, as fledder says, I wouldn't want to force a doctor to kill people, you need to find a volunteer.
Maybe some sort of re-socialization project for ex-mafiosos? :-)

As for mentally ill people, I truly don't know. Maybe the person the patient was two years ago would want assisted suicide, but what does the current "remaining" person want? That's what should count. You can't just wave an old living will in front of their eyes and pull the trigger.

Also, with good enough palliative care, helping the few patients on their way out who still want to, poses much less of an ethical problem. After all, you have human, i.e. fallible, judges and juries dishing out capital punishment and therefore tolerate a certain percentage of wrongful killings. Therefore precedent exists.

A working example of good dementia care would be http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogewey in the netherlands. But then again, they /do/ have a functioning health care system over there.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 4, 2013
[he only remaining argument is a personal religious belief, and we live in a country where one person't can't make another suffer for their religious beliefs. -Scott]

What country is that?

Because in the country I live in:

A polygamous group may want to get married. They can't because most of our religious or ethical beliefs are against it.

A starving person can't steal food to eat because most of us believe stealing is wrong.

I can't harvest organs from a live unconsenting donor (or even pay a donor) to heal my disease because people believe against it.

Drug addicts cannot legally get their fix and must suffer through withdrawal because others believe they are wrong.


You may not agree with some or any of these restrictions. But it is not a settled principle that we don't let people suffer because of others' beliefs.


I also think it's also important to stress that the disease made your father suffer, not lack of access to suicide or activists against it. It's more satisfying to be direct anger at people rather than a disease, but it's not really true. Nobody wanted your father to suffer.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 4, 2013
Dear Scott,

Your suffering and anger over your father's agonizing end-of-life is understandable. My mother endured excruciating pain for years from vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis, a pain that was not relieved by analgesics. She was dying from congestive heart failure and wanted help to hasten her death. Since that option was not legal in California, she rightly complained that our medicolegal system treats dying people as though they've lost both their ability to reason and right to self-determination. In my view, a dying individual's choice of how his or her life should end is literally our "last right", i.e., the last of our human rights. Opponents of aid-in-dying may accept an agonizing death for themselves but should not force their beliefs on everyone else. Those of us who have seen a loved one unnecessarily suffer a prolonged and awful death can turn our frustration, anger and grief into positive action. We can work with organizations that endeavor to support people with a terminal illness and their families, educate people about advance directives and palliative medicine, and advocate in our own states for Death With Dignity rights like those in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana. For example, Steve Lopez of the LA Times has become a strong advocate for end-of-life choice in California and refers other supporters to Compassion & Choices to get involved.


T White
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
I think what I find grating about Mr. Adams's rewording (while trying to toe the line of recognizing that he is grieving without being patronizing -- I have worked not to take his posts about wanting people dead personally, but do hope he will one day realize they were a mistake), is his pose in this and other posts as the last truly rational person in a world or irrational people.

There is also the suspicion that he knows darn well what he is doing, since he has broken down this process before (http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/morality_of_influence/?Page=3).

So, yeah, when he presents a question in a way that stacks the deck in favor of his preferred answer, he's probably being a little dishonest.

[I asked the question in a way that highlights the constitutional issue, which is the only valid part of the debate. The debate on whether there will be practical problems has been answered by locations that have already legalized similar practices and are happy about it. The only remaining argument is a personal religious belief, and we live in a country where one person't can't make another suffer for their religious beliefs. -- Scott]
Dec 3, 2013
Everyone who says that the question is absurdly slanted is correct, but that doesn't mean we're seeing "intellectual dishonesty" or "weaselly" wording. I believe that what we are seeing is simple grief.

He may be able to have a more rational discussion a year from now.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
"If you, your doctors, and your family all agree on an end-of-life healthcare strategy to minimize your suffering, should the government be allowed to veto your choice?"

While I agree that it's irrational to oppose palliative care for those who desire it, you're being a bit tricky with this question in a couple ways. First of all, how do you define "minimal suffering?" A medically induced coma, rather than death, might be "minimal suffering" for the patient.

Also, this question you ask mentions nothing specifically about euthanasia or assisted suicide. So you're asking a question no rational person could disagree with, unless maybe they're some sort of extremist militant Buddhist ("Life is suffering, so all must suffer!").

If I rephrased your question, it would read, "Should the government make ALL of your health care decisions for you?" and other than a few EXTREMIST left-wingers, the answer to that question would (hopefully) be an emphatic HELL NO.

Without speaking to the right or wrong of it (I'm not saying I agree or disagree, just giving the argument), the people who oppose end-of-life options are much like anti-abortion activists: they have a moral framework that it is wrong to take an innocent life, period. And a living person is definitely a human being, so there's no wiggle room for them on that one! More specifically, they believe that it is wrong to murder (i.e., commit a premeditated killing that isn't in self-defense). So to that sort of person, putting someone out of their misery (even if they beg for it) is filed under "it's always murder."
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
Two points to your two points :)

First, regarding the state vs individual rights: I always remember a quote regarding suicides on the Golden Bridge, in which a survivor says something among the lines of "the second I jumped off, I realised everything in my life could be fixed - except for the fact I'd just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge". I also spent some time reading pages pro-Anorexia and Bulimia, in which people discuss it as "their choice" and share tips about inducing vomit without anyone noticing, among others. So I'm not convinced about letting people decide about their own self-destructive habits.

Regarding the "unfiltered Scott": I don't think it's a good idea, or at least not in this situation. If you want to be unfiltered because your inner artist calls for a renovation, go for it; however, if you want to say stuff because you are mad and want to vent, I'd argue that in the long run it would only make you lose support - first from your current fans that don't think the same way you do, then from those that get tired of "angry you", and of course the new enemies you'd make on the way (I bet we all remember the "Scott Adams is a rape apologist" thing).

[Do you have an issue with people making their own healthcare decisions already? I have to think at least half of them are making bad decisions on that topic and just about every other important topic every day. -- Scott]
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013

You, your doctor, and your family?

Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs, said Francis, quoting the fifth-century St. John Chrysostom.

You have to choose between The Government making decisions for you, or The Church making decisions for you.

How dare you to think that you should be able to make decisions for yourself.

You are not capable of making these decisions, they must make them for you. Who do you think you are?
Dec 3, 2013
Scott, the thought occurs that you can, y'know, donate the money you make? Even after your book hit #1?

Just seems like that wouldn't actually remove the incentive to self-censor.

I mean, you're a decent writer, but it's not like you can't write anonymously in some fashion, I assume, if you put your mind to it. (Or heck, just post some uncensored things and some censored things? Would that just work?)

[I'm guessing that 100% of the money I make from the book will be spent by others. Half of that will be in the form of taxes. Most of the rest will be in the form of either investments in new businesses or direct transfer to people who need it. -- Scott]
Dec 3, 2013
Hmm, is this going to be the new theme of this blog? Because these posts have been frankly unentertaining. I can see why you want to publicise this issue that's close to your heart, but maybe space it out a little? After all, a popular blog means a larger audience if nothing else.

Hmm, I hope it doesn't turn out you're on the wrong side and I've helped you. Ah well.

"Can anyone point me 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?"

Um, do past selves count? I'm currently agnostic on the issue pending better data, but would previously have taken that deal as long as it applied to everyone, which I assume is the intent. And I am still *leaning* toward answering "yes".

The idea being that sure, I like to think *I'm* rational - but so does everyone - so do all the people I see every day making stupid decisions. Why should this be different just because it's important enough to get the government involved?

(I can still remember the responses I would give to at least the standard arguments, if you're interested, Scott. But I assume that was hyperbole anyway.)
Dec 3, 2013
It's funny that people who can't think feel that running away from the problem will make it go away just because someone disagrees with you. Is your world view that fragile that it can't handle a little scrutiny?
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
Scott, I've enjoyed your blog for the last 3 or 4 years but for the first time - with your last few posts - feel personally attacked because my views are different to yours. I'm no longer a fan. For what it's worth with regret I've unsubscribed and taken your book off my Amazon wish list.

[You feel personally attacked because I'm annoyed that you supported the laws that tortured both of my parents to death? Do I owe you an apology or something? -- Scott]
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
I think you just wrote the best infomercial text/script that I ever saw. If you'd be brave enough to read it on YouTube, I'm pretty sure it would get viral in no time...
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 3, 2013
I recall hearing an NPR segment that included a story about a man who contracted botulism from home-canned pickles. He went through a horrible, painful ordeal. He asked to die. He lived in a right-to-die state. He went through all the proper steps, but the doctors refused to let him go. They knew he would recover fully. He was in his thirties with a wife and kids.

When he recovered, they asked him how he felt about his directive being ignored. He said he was glad to alive - but was still sort of p*ssed that his clear instructions had been ignored. He did not sue, however.

Human beings are capable of dealing with exceptional !$%*!$%*!$%*!$
Dec 3, 2013
For people who believe that denying me the right to kill myself is for my own good, I can only say that please do not decide what is good or bad for me. I am no longer a child. Nothing pisses me off as much as when people ride on my back claiming it is for my own good. I trust myself and my family members to take the right decision for me, not you and not the government.

For people who fear that some people will, some day, abuse the freedom - solve that particular problem. That is what the law and the police and the courts are for. Draft a suitable legislation,catch the guilty if any and prosecute them. But stop making only a few unfortunate souls pay the price for your incompetence or lethargy.
Dec 2, 2013
[[A belief in magic isn't a philosophy. -- Scott]

...Umm...not that I agree with Anothermicks post but....what part of it said 'belief in magic' to you?

[Key word: "belief" -- Scott]
Dec 2, 2013

Condolences from me, too.... My dad passed about 14 years ago, and mom just short of two years ago.... Mom was 96, and just sort of faded away after about a two year illness that left her mind more or less working, almost no pain except for the PITA aspects of needing 24-hour care as she became too feeble to get herself in and out of bed or on and off the sofa. A small dog to pet, and she was fine, not to mention occasional visits from her great-grandchildren. A "Death Panel" would likely have written her off, which likely would have made the financial side of her care very difficult.

What I _really_ don't want is medical "advice" (read "demands") from people who aren't physicians. Secretaries, actuaries, and lawyers need not apply.... There are times when nothing is really going to help, and regardless of the family's financial ability, a reality check may indeed be in order, but not as a _command_.... Mom gained about a year of relatively comfortable life because she needed, and got, a Colostomy. Medicare picked up most of the tab. Non-physicians likely would have denied that because of her age and the risks of the surgery. We went along with doing it because she would either die _right now_, or in a few years - comfortably slipping away either way.... She went from "call the Funeral Home" to "when can we take her home" in about three hours.

About your dad.... It'll take a while, and the loss never really goes away, but you should be able to live with it shortly. Don't be afraid to talk about it, but don't be a broken record, either. Write about it if you want to....
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