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It's My Life, I'll Take It If I Want To
Or hire somebody to take it for me. Because it's mine, and I get to decide what gets done with it, same as I get to decide what gets done with my pen or my desk or my iPod. Attorney Thomas A. Bowden writes via The Ayn Rand Institute:

IRVINE, CA--"In upholding Oregon's assisted suicide law today, the Supreme Court reached the right result for the wrong reasons. The law should have been upheld on moral grounds: an individual's right to his life," said Thomas A. Bowden, senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute.

"Individuals have a moral right to seek assistance in committing suicide. And if a doctor is willing to assist, based on an objective assessment of his patient's mental and physical state, the law should not stand in his way.

"The right to life includes and implies the right to commit suicide.

"To hold otherwise is to deny the right to life at its root. If we have a duty to go on living, despite our better judgment, then our life does not belong to us, and we exist by permission, not by right.

"There is no rational basis upon which the government can properly prevent an individual from choosing to end his life. The choice is his because the life is his.

"Religious conservatives, supported by the Bush administration, want to ban assisted suicide because it defies God's will. Such conservatives crave to inject religion into the bloodstream of American law, thereby assisting in our own national suicide. People of reason must refuse their consent to the religious conservative agenda."

Posted by aalkon at January 18, 2006 11:17 AM

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Comments

Hi Amy.
Just one comment
This is why this battle of science v superstition is so important. To the people that think we're picking on religion, or to the people that say, "well let them believe what they want, it doesn't hurt me," this is precisely why you're wrong. The religious supernatural view of the believers permeates and colors all of their judgments. It spills into their views and decisions regarding medicine, school, social policy, legislation, tv programming etc etc.
This is why religious belief in not benign nonsense, but toxic policy that touches and poisons our lives on an everyday basis

Posted by: everybody hates chris at January 18, 2006 7:28 AM

Yes, exactly right.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 18, 2006 7:45 AM

> The religious supernatural view
> of the believers permeates and
> colors all of their judgments.

How do you know that's not backwards? They'll tell you their judgments inform their belief.

We don't have the privilege of swapping out their cosmological perspectives any more than they have the authority to specify ours.

Posted by: Crid at January 18, 2006 10:31 AM

Google for "religion" and "suicide" and the first of 11 Mhits is http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9300520&dopt=Abstract. This is a study of associations between suicide tolerance and strength of religious belief in 28085 individuals in 19 Western countries in 1989/90. The conclusion relevant to this discussion is In individuals, stronger religious beliefs are associated with lower tolerance of suicide.


Correlation is not causality, but most people's religion is culturally inherited, usually from their parents. If the origin of people's religion is determined, and religions in general do proscribe suicide, it is reasonable to conclude that Amy is right to say The religious supernatural view of the believers permeates and colors all of their judgments.

Posted by: Norman at January 18, 2006 11:26 AM

What Norman said.

Crud, I've read your reasoning before. Bertrand Russell you ain't. Authority to specify? No...not claiming authority, just commenting that the religious are dangerous, infantile, petty children who are dangerous to all living things on this planet.

Posted by: everybody hates chris at January 18, 2006 11:46 AM

> just commenting that the religious
> are dangerous, infantile, petty...

Do you offer these blunt appraisals when speaking to them in person? You must know a couple of them.

Or is this just posturing?

Posted by: Crid at January 18, 2006 11:59 AM

> The choice is his because
> the life is his.

Naw, he has FINAL ownership, but not sole ownership. We're connected to each other in profound ways, and we have responsibilities to each other that don't stop just because things get difficult. I have no problem with assisted suicide in conditions of dire illness. But it's infantile to argue that "It's *MY* selfish life to do with as I please!"

Posted by: Crid at January 18, 2006 12:23 PM

Do I offer these comments in person or just posturing. I'm located at 6749 fulton in the swingin' city of van nuys. Anybody is always free to come by and discuss my opinions with me in person. I welcome it. If they won't or are too afraid, then i suggest they don't really have to much more to say on the matter.

Posted by: everybody hates chris at January 18, 2006 12:37 PM

> I'm located...in the swingin' city
> of van nuys.

You'll be in our prayers, Chris. I lived in Terre Haute once. (Well, that was the city of residence... You wouldn't call it living.)

> Anybody is always free to come by....

See, that's the pattern. Amy posts one one of these every few weeks. Then in the comments, a bunch of dick-swingers step out with bold proclaimations: 'Religion is EVIL! People are IRRATIONAL! The faithful are worse than MURDERERS!' The commenters pat themselves on the back for courageously confronting theocratic monsters.

When you ask if they have encounters with people where this rhetoric actually comes up, it turns out they don't. There's a reason for that.

Posted by: Crid at January 18, 2006 1:10 PM

Your comments are simply the words of a drooling idiot. but you shift the focus. If you think I dont say these things in person, then why dont you come on by and prove it one way or the other. Of course you wont becasue you're a gutless cocksucker. the blog awaits...what will you do?

Posted by: everybody hates chris at January 18, 2006 2:02 PM

Relax, Chris... "the blog" is just a few guys who work the night shift on Wednesdays. You're not being attacked.

Posted by: Crid at January 18, 2006 2:20 PM

No no no that's not the point. I'm just responding to what you said. You said I don't say these things in person. I simply called your bluff. I agree that probably 95 of the tough guys on here are really woody allen's and would faint at the sign of real confrontation. But that's not me. One of the reasons I can and do say these things is that I am 6'5", weigh 230 pounds and look like Frankenstein. The vast majority of people chose not to mix it up with me. For the ones that do, I'm ready for anything, and I do mean anything.

Posted by: everybody hates chris at January 18, 2006 2:34 PM

Well, ready-for-anything, you probably won't be moaning because the public won't help you off yourself if and when you decide to.

Some of the strangest things out there today are the ideas that you have to have society's permission - and their support in the form of law - and a comfortable demise is a right. What? Not quite!

Posted by: Radwaste at January 18, 2006 2:54 PM

Rad,

Having given it exactly 2.3 seconds of thought(yes, I was timing myself [wink]), I read you as suggesting that a comfortable demise is not a right each individual posesses AND that society has an interest in not granting such a right. IF I have read you correctly (not sure of this), could you elaborate on what just what society's interest would be? [Note, that I'm referring to society at large, and not one's intimates.]

Posted by: Michael at January 18, 2006 5:27 PM

Michael, I second your question. If my life isn't mine, whose is it, and why?

Posted by: Pirate Jo at January 18, 2006 9:40 PM

Chris- Confronting ME won't help you, I'm not religious.

Michael & PJ- Not speaking for Rad here, but civilized folks are very slow to give others permission to kill third parties.

Raddy makes a great point. The lives of Americans got extended by over 50% in the century just past. (Women did even better.) So there's a wrinkle in the stats that's rolling through the population. A lot of people --especially self-centered boomers-- are just now figuring out how shitty the end of life can be, as they care for and bury their deeply senior parents.

In a recent experience with a beloved family member, the doctors were sane and clear headed without being death-mongers. (This includes the surgeons at a respected Catholic hospital in the western United States). Instead of rejiggering our entire legal and moral approach to death, maybe the baby boomers just need to learn a little humility and compassion for the boundaries of others.

We probably shouldn't hold our breath....

Posted by: Crid at January 19, 2006 1:31 AM

The non-religious reason to be careful about permitting
suicide is to avoid abuses. It's in society's interest to
keep people from killing themselves because they've been
pressured to do so. I'm sure you can think up a bunch of
plausible scenarios yourself; I'll supply one: "How could
you be so selfish? Don't you realize how much your
hospital stay is costing your family?"

Posted by: Ron at January 19, 2006 4:39 AM

Article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/leaders/story/0,,1689528,00.html:


Slowly but surely Britain is moving to a more rational position on a patient's right to die. Currently the law remains locked into an illogical contradiction under which death can be accelerated by doctors withholding a drug, but the pursuit of the same end by administering a drug remains illegal. The law, which rests on intent, should recognise this inherent contradiction.

[...]

But, alas, the alliance of nine major faiths that was against the last bill, is likely to remain opposed even with the extra concessions. These religious opponents have every right to believe in their strict interpretation of the sanctity of life, but no right to impose their belief on others. There is no doubting what society wants. Over 80% in a succession of polls have supported the principles of the bill. It is time parliament ended a medical practice which requires too many terminally-ill patients to inch towards death through a torture chamber.

Posted by: Norman at January 19, 2006 5:53 AM

"he has FINAL ownership, but not sole ownership. We're connected to each other in profound ways, and we have responsibilities to each other that don't stop just because things get difficult."


We each have a responsibility to not harm other people, but what if I'm only harming myself? I might hurt a few people's feelings if I kill or harm myself, but I'm not infringing upon anyone else's rights. Where does your version of responsibility to others end? Should we make it illegal to eat too much, since I might die early of heart disease and therefore hurt someone's feelings?

I realize the government has taken steps in this direction - seatbelt laws, helmet laws, the drug war, smoking bans (which I predict are just a step toward illegalizing them outright), etc. But these kinds of laws usually get enacted because they are popular, "feel-good" laws that get politicians elected. They really are nanny-state laws that have no place in a society that recognizes each individual's self-ownership.

Saying we are "connected to each other in profound ways" sounds like a nice, flowery statement that might get you laid, but (as Monty Python's constitutional peasants have it) it's no basis for a system of government!

Posted by: Pirate Jo at January 19, 2006 12:59 PM

> like a nice, flowery statement
> that might get you laid

At *LAST*!

Listen, people are twitchy about assisted suicide for pretty obvious reasons and there aren't a lot of clever ways to phrase it.

Off to the dentist for filling replacement. If he fucks it up, kill me.

Posted by: Crid at January 19, 2006 3:18 PM

OK, it went fine.

No! Really! Everything's good! Back off!

Posted by: Crid at January 19, 2006 4:30 PM

Son of a window dresser!

Posted by: Pirate Jo at January 19, 2006 6:46 PM

Son of a window dresser?!


Is that a translation from Russian or something? :-)

Posted by: Norman at January 20, 2006 1:11 AM

There is ample reason to assert that those who wish to kill themselves should be allowed to do so; what survival traits were they bringing to the gene pool, anyway?

But society's interest - the welfare of the tribe - continues from before your birth to after your death, in that the planning for and accomplishment of each major event in your life has an impact on those around you. Laws make the handling of individuals by the State impersonal by their very nature. It is important that life not be "cheapened", and this is aside from the obvious difficulty of determining just who is ranting and who is in serious need of relief.

Posted by: Radwaste at January 20, 2006 4:31 AM

Rad,

Thanks for getting back to us with your thoughts--I thought we had lost you.

I'll not parse your second paragraph as finely as I could, but stipulate your second sentence and part "b" of your final one. (In part "a" of the final sentence it remains unclear whether you are reiterating what others have emotionally said, or actually hold to the "cheapening" position, whatever it truly is.)

A fiercely cynical reading of the "welfare of the tribe" remark, comes out as a Monty Pythonesque skit about bureaucracy: "Nope, sorry, you are not allowed to die this week as it would interfere with all of the government's carefully laid plans that happen to include you. Accounting would have to coordinate with Allocation in order not to involve Internal Auditing and the Inspector General and Review Boards; then there's Home Office Policy, the Dept. of Internal Revenue, and the Ministry of Public Works, all of which could not complete their agendas if they lacked the taxes you will pay before your planned demise. I'm sorry, you'll have to expire on schedule. Good Morning."

Beastly bureaucratic, and constantly cynical. Admitting that, however, does not dull this point: your writing reads as though you believe that "society's interest" is primarily society, and that the way to this end is to focus large instead of small; not a promotion of individual flourishing, but social engineering at the expense of the individual qua individual.

And no, I'm not trying to sort it all out on another person's blog, that's what personal blogs are for. ;)

Posted by: Michael at January 20, 2006 4:20 PM

Not much on my mind right now, but it's not important. I've just been letting everything happen without me. I just don't have anything to say right now.

Posted by: Sten34857 at January 19, 2007 11:09 PM

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