Monday, March 2, 2009

Right to Die?

Washington State will soon be the second state to legalize doctor assisted suicides. This initiative was pushed by an organization called Compassion and Choices. Here is my interview of Roland Halpern, Director of Compassion and Choices.

Mr. Halpern was unable to explain the philosophy of limiting assisted suicides to six months of expected death. After all, why such an arbitrary limit? If the justification of allowing assisted suicides is that an individual should be able to make such a decision because is his life, then why have any limits?

While the notion of a slippery slope can sound cliché, it frequently occurs. For example, when abortion was legalized it was assumed that abortion would only be performed in rare cases, such as rape or incest. It was never envisioned that abortion would become just another form of birth control. It was also never considered that babies could be killed up to the ninth month. Yet it happened.

I fear that allowing doctor assisted suicides can similarly open Pandora’s Box. While it might now be restricted to people who only have 6 months to live, there is no logical reason to keep that limit. One could legally argue that is discriminatory to people who are in chronic pain that are not expected to die in six months. Why should such people be denied this “treatment”?

Once we go down that road, we could end up in a situation such as abortion in which anyone can get an assisted suicide based on any reason. And, obviously, the potential for abuse and outright murder is high in such an environment.

Hard cases make bad law. While it is sad to see someone suffer, we always need to error on the side of life.

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