Alpine Summit

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Assisting Cowardice

An article on CNN.com was posted by Lee at Right-Thinking where he wrote "I gotta side with the lefties on this one," about assisted suicide. The primary argument he makes is that we should allow them to end their lives with dignity and that we have no right to stop it. He makes a moral justification for their choice which is odd because it's a libertarian viewpoint("government shouldn't tell us what to do")--and that political philosophy makes no moral distinctions other than "government=bad."

In the comments section of the post, Lee writes this in response to my view that this is, in fact, cowardice and thus undeserving of dignification.

I don’t think cowardly has anything to do with it, Quicksilver. I think there comes a point when someone who is lying in a bed in agonizing pain, laying in a pool of their own piss and sh** because they can’t control their bowel movements, waiting and waiting for a natural death, to be able to say, “I’m ready to go.” And when they make that decision, to be able to go with dignity.

He makes a couple of points here and I'll go through them one at a time. First, he makes the claim that those in agonizing pain should be allowed to end their lives. Where is the line drawn for this? I guess only those about to die who are in agonizing pain have the moral authority to end their own lives. This seems like a double standard to me. Where does it end? "Well this child has arthritis and will live a good 70 years in pain, so why not let them end their lives now?" The article mentions the law gives a 6 month timetable, which is obviously an arbitrary number. It's morally repugnant to me and a sign of cowardice simply giving up because they're uncomfortable and therefore undignified.

Lee then contends that maintaining socially acceptable behavior (not wetting the bed) should be a caveat for wanting to end one's own life. "They can't go to the bathroom like a normal person anymore, so let's let them die!" Again, this seems pretty weak. When you take that argument on its own, we should then allow teenagers who have not been able to get potty trained or those with non life-threatening ailments causing incontinence to end THEIR lives. What would we think of someone who wanted to commit suicide because they can't control their bowels? I would think we wouldn't be too understanding--let alone ascribe some kind of moral dignity to the act.

"Letting someone die with dignity" is disingenuous and impossible to justify when talking about assisted suicide. I'm not arguing assisted suicide should be illegal (I'm not sure where I stand), but let's make no mistake: this is not a morally superior, or dignified, thing. If anything, it's like abortion. They should be legal... but don't expect moral justification for the act. I will hold no dignity for a girl wishing to better her life by murdering her child; and likewise, I will hold no level of dignity to those who commit suicide for their own sake.

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