On euthanasia 24

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Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill allowing terminally ill patients to end life, using drugs prescribed by their doctors. (There are religious conservatives who think taking your own life is an affront to “God” and that he wants nature run its course, even when you’re deathly sick, in constant pain, and have no hope for recovery – although he loves you. ) The choice to die is not made a requirement. The law simply gives patients the option to die if that’s what they want. The act stipulates that patients must be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, that two doctors confirm the reaons for the choice, that the patients submit a series of written requests, and that there be two witnesses, one of whom is not a family member.

This is the one thing Governor Jerry Brown has done that we approve of.

But we have heard reasonable arguments against euthanasia.

So we invite readers to give us their views on the issue.

Posted under Ethics, Miscellaneous, News by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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This post has 24 comments.

  • liz

    I’m not against the idea of terminally ill people who are in pain choosing to end their life, but I’m wary of the possibilities of the abuse of it. Would it increase instances of old or terminally ill people being helped along to death against their wishes?

    • Bruce

      I’ve heard of this happening in the Europe. In one of the Low Countries, specifically, but i can’t recall which one off the top of my head. My view of it is that so long as the person can be shown to be mentally competent and have a compelling reason (terminal cancer, for example), it should be their personal choice.

      • Switzerland has allowed it for many years.

      • liz

        Another instance I heard of (but can’t recall the details) was of a young woman who suffered from depression and wanted to do that.( I can’t remember for sure if she actually did ). Should a person with severe depression be considered mentally competent? I’m not sure.
        I don’t exactly trust psychiatrists these days – such as the one who helped a woman make herself blind.

        • I too don’t trust psychiatrists! Hadn’t heard about that one – horrifying.

          On the whole I am for voluntary assisted suicide. But there are many possible cases – like temporary depression – when allowing it legally could be dangerous.

          Some people could be bullied into volunteeaing.

          • toomanycrayons

            “Some people could be bullied into volunteering.”

            Isn’t that a boilerplate human social mechanism? What if “Granny’s” motivated/orchestrated death provides economic/social benefit to the many? We all die. What makes it matter when except a Narcissistic preoccupation with one’s self? You’re not suggesting each person has an essential, eternal Essentialness, are you? Is there any data, or just the made up notion of quasi-religious Human Rights? A vet I knew often repeated the phrase he’d heard in the Service, “I need three volunteers, you, you and…you.”

            Next time you fill out an investment/mortgage form made up of three bad choices watch your advisor step back and let you choose. Pontius Pilate did the same, legend instructs. C’mon, Granny, it isn’t always someone else’s turn. Take one for the team…

            • Pontius Pilate? Are you a Christian? You believe that improbable story about Pontius Pilate? And doesn’t the story show him offering a choice between two, not three men or mortgages or whatever?

              But you sneer at “quasi-religious Human Rights”. We don’t believe in “human rights” at all, religious or quasi religious – only those granted by law.

              I just don’t get your point. What is it?

              Why should one not have a “Narcissistic preoccupation with oneself”? Doesn’t everyone have that? How can anyone survive if he doesn’t have it? It doesn’t mean he is unconerned about anything else, but his own survival takes up a tremendous lot of his time and consideration. Must do, for every living person – and animal, come to that.

              Whatever gave you the idea that I was suggesting “an essential, eternal Essentialness”? I have never had such an idea of myself in all my life. I’m not sure I even understand what you mean by it – unless you mean do I believe that I have an immortal soul? If so, the answer is NO.

              And what has the vet and his story got to do with any of it? How you jump about!

              I thought I was writing in praise of a law that would allow assisted suicide, but acknowledging in passing that it could be abused. Which is obvious enough. It’s called rational thinking – weighing up the arguments. Seeing a preponderous of pros or cons. But you come along with some reproach, or rebuke, or scorn of something I have said.

              Could you clarify your case? At least to yourself!

            • toomanycrayons

              You’re making the case that individual lives have inherent value beyond the group. I’m asking you to substantiate that claim.

              Describing the Pilate incident as “legend” should have suggested: non-Christian. Human Rights are similarly just social fictions, and constantly abused for gain; given the News, it seems like a human default.

              As to jumping about, if you don’t trust psychiatrists, who exactly judges whether or not a depression is temporary, or even exists, someone with a feeling based on something horrifying which may or may not have taken place in one of the Low Countries? You need more clarity on this issue, yourself. I’m not the one having difficulty dealing with it in the abstract, rational realm. The mere possibility of abuse does not represent a significant disincentive to allowing euthanasia. Americans, for example, appear to be more afraid of it than guns, which brings us back to Narcissistic preoccupations: How can you protect your self from state sanctioned death when you’re sick, weak and old? You can’t, hence the overblown anxiety. Open-carry 9mm isn’t always the doable answer.

              Human rights are abused as a matter of course daily. Conflating alleged euthanasia abuse with that, too, supposes that people near death have inherent value which somehow trumps all other considerations. Where do you see that being anything more than just another ontological fiction? If even rumoured end-of-life “abuses” can easily be papered over in some peoples’ minds, along with all the rest that Humanity gets up to, what’s the problem? Over all, and on average, as Frank concedes by his post, if it works it works. Getting emotional about it serves no purpose, on average. Unless, of course, getting emotional (not rational) about life was the intent all along.

            • I’m not “making the case that individual lives have inherent value beyond the group”. I wouldn’t even think of making such a case. It makes itself. The very idea of a life only having value as one of a group makes no sense. My life is valuable to me. No doubt yours is to you. If circumstances arise that might make me want to end my life, I’d like to be able to end it without pain. Simple enough? And I wouldn’t like to be cajoled into ending it if I don’t want to.

              The rest of what you say I still don’t understand. “State sanctioned death” – where did that come from? State sanctioned suicide, do you mean? The State is letting one die, if one wants to, with help, not condemning one to death.

              Who is “getting emotional” and about what?

              Are you saying that the only value an individual life has is if it is held to be valuable by other people? That is a sociological view. Worse, it is a socialist view.

            • toomanycrayons

              “Are you proposing murder of the old and “useless”? Murder by “nudging” them to “voluntary” death?”

              I’m suggesting that your notion of (individual) human value is a house of cards. Of course, there is the basic animal urge to survive. Evolution accounts for that. Altruistic sacrifice is similarly advantageous; witness a termite, bee or ant colony. Or, human society. Currently one small American town is getting all moist-eyed over a highly proficient home-grown killer who died in Iraq helping rescue Peshmerga soldiers. I doubt that one becomes an effective commando by concentrating first on “why” one is doing what needs to be done. War is addictive. So is the social fog which surrounds it.

              “Are you saying that the only value an individual life has is if it is
              held to be valuable by other people? That is a sociological view. Worse,
              it is a socialist view.”

              That strikes me as an oddly Christian/Evangelical perspective. You’re basically suggesting that you have a personal/solipsistic/Narcissistic relationship with the Universe. Given that even the words we’re typing are the product of eons of accumulated Human activity, such a position as an insular, essential self (my previous question) seems untenable. Are you on an atheist site simply because a religious construction gets in the way of appreciating the view in the mirror?

              So, back to whether or not individuals have value: You’re saying it’s self-evident. I had a discussion with a closet-fundie once over abortion. His claim was that every fetus deserved to be born. Presumably, although he wouldn’t own it, he was proposing some “spark of life” event, ensoulment. His response to my question, “Since everything dies, why does it matter when?” was, “Seriously?” Your self-evident claim is similarly disingenuous. You, too, are positing special woo to individuals. Will the Universe miss you when it eventually takes you apart molecule by molecule, and sequesters the carbon/elements you’ve accumulated to that date? Likely only other humans, and maybe pets, will even notice, or care. There is no such thing as…a single human being. The “Individual” is a Narcissistic/social fiction, likely serving the same purpose in a secular sense as the theist prospect of souls being consigned to lakes of fire: socialisation. America, for example, has more people by % incarcerated than anywhere else in the world. America deifies the Individual. Funny how that works.

            • Good grief! The philosophies of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong and Che Guevara were less nihilistic than yours. Have you read “The Devils” (also called “The Possessed”) by Dostoyevsky? If you haven’t, I strongly urge you to read it. You will find your views (much better expressed, of course) uttered by some of the most appalling characters in all literature – and Dostoyevsky based them on real people who did the things he narrates in his novel. The obvious course for one who thinks as you do is to become a dictator and starve or burn up millions of people – or commit suicide.

            • You might also read “The Ego and Its Own” by Max Stirner. It would be a strong tonic for your mental jaundice. I doubt it would cure you – nothing except perhaps age, maturity, and sheer experience has any chance of doing that – but you might have a great time arguing with it.

            • toomanycrayons

              “You’re making the case that individual lives have inherent value beyond the group. I’m asking you to substantiate that claim.”-tmc

              “I’m not “making the case that individual lives have inherent value
              beyond the group”. I wouldn’t even think of making such a case. It makes
              itself.”-Jillian Becker

              Fortunately, for both you and liz. Since we’re recommending reading, try “Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind”-Noah Harari, and “Leaving Truth”-Keith Sewell. Rather than hard, empirical evidence you both offer ontological narratives. Your “truth” is learned, not fact. Why are some human lives valued more than others? Why do those standards vary circumstantially and by culture? Perhaps you’ve even noticed in your own posts here the mechanism required to preserve your own self-justifying narratives: shunning. You do what you have to do, right? Why not call it a case which makes itself? That’s what the religious do. Harari makes the point that secular Humanism is as made up as any religion. You have not persuaded me otherwise.

            • Instead of commenting on what we say, why don’t you set out your argument logically, step by step, to a clearly stated conclusion?

            • toomanycrayons

              “Instead of commenting on what we say, why don’t you set out your argument logically, step by step, to a clearly stated conclusion?”

              I asked you first:

              “You’re making the case that individual lives have inherent value beyond the group. I’m asking you to substantiate that claim.”

              If you’ve got nothing just say so.

            • Okay. I’ve got nothing.

              Now your turn.

            • I knew you wouldn’t be able to do it. You were just showing off. Aggressively. I guess you are 17. Well, you’ve had your fun, and that’s enough from you now.

            • toomanycrayons

              Jillian Becker [Mod] > Jillian Becker?

              Perfect. Solipsism is what it is. Your bubble is secure. Too funny for more words.

            • liz

              “The “individual” is a narcissistic/social fiction” – what BS!!
              Rational self interest is not narcissism, and the individual is not a fiction.
              If you think it is, then you can choose not to act in your own rational self interest, and you will either become a parasite on the “group” – a role you might favor as a socialist – or your individual life will soon cease. (But since you consider it to be fictional, I guess it won’t bother you.)

            • toomanycrayons

              You think/make up what you are permitted to. Well, where do you actually get the choices? A society of individuals is a learned/permitted social cult fiction, just like a religious one. Neither is ordained or inevitable. Humanity just makes [delete] up. So much for your personal teleological journey? Is “This” really all about…You?


            • liz

              “You think/make up what you are permitted to.” – spoken like a true cog in the collective machine. Don’t dare think for yourself – that would be way too individualistic, and that wouldn’t be useful to the collective.
              Ever heard of a “useful idiot”?

            • toomanycrayons

              Did you make up that term yourself? Neither of you has answered the challenge to your borrowed individual “Free Will” narrative: Individual, greater than which any individualism can be imagined, to draw the obvious Anselm parallel. 14 billion years, and here “You” are. So, what? Speaking of Nihilism, at least Christians made up a Story. You’re just shopping. This Bud’s for YOU, says it all. Perhaps, Dawkins’ next book should be, The Self Delusion.

            • liz

              Lenin made up the term. And here you are. And I agree – so what?

  • Frank

    I’ll reluctantly accept those conditions. As a culture we humanely put down dying animals so they don’t suffer. But for too many years we have forced some of our fellow humans to stay alive and endure tremendous suffering for no reason. I am in favor of the law.