Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Turned red, blue, purple, so colorful indeed

Think about the worst illness you've ever experienced, the kind of infection that sees you prostrated helplessly in front of the porcelain throne after making seven consecutive offerings to it while you desperately--and unsuccessfully--try to sneak a breath in edgewise, followed by a miserable, aching eternity of darkness in which your thoughts are, almost by necessity, about nothing other than being rid of the curse. If such an existence was your life's sentence, would you have the stomach to go on? What if it were to last, without interruption, for a full month?

These sorts of questions come to my mind whenever I'm mulling over the issue of assisted suicide (and in those mercifully rare times that I contract something so fierce). In answer to the first question, I'm a weak-willed buddhist--all of life is suffering, but I don't want to grit my teeth and bear it--get me out of here! To the second question, though, I like to think I would, and no worse for the wear.

How about if it were to continue for a full year, though? It's not difficult for me to sympathize with those who'd like to dismount from the mortal coil rather than be racked continuously by it as the earth makes it all the way around the sun. Yet if the person in question was someone I cared deeply about, I'd be tempted to compel him to suffer through it even, if he had access to a legally sanctioned, painless, clinically administered suicide escape hatch.

As is the case with so many social issues, I'm a libertarian at a safe distance but more of a sanctity-of-lifer up close. Politically pro-choice, but forever disappointed in a close family member who had an abortion, that's my line of thinking--it's why I prefer sticking to the data over pontificating from a personal perspective.

Andrew Stuttaford isn't so demure. He celebrated a legislative victory for doctor-assisted suicide out of the northeast, curiously remarking:
Vermont may be a lefty sort of place, but occasionally it gets some things right.
I say "curiously" because in the US--Stuttaford's home for the last couple of decades--euthanasia is primarily championed by the left, not the right. The GSS has queried respondents for even longer than Andrew has been on this side of the Atlantic on whether or not they feel a person who has an "incurable disease" has the right to commit suicide. The question is dichotomous, and for contemporary relevance, responses are from 2000 onward. By political orientation, the percentages of people who feel such a person should be able to end his life:

OrientationCato%
Liberal73.7
Moderate62.3
Conservative44.6

Since we're on the topic, feelings towards pulling the plug, by age range:

AgeCato%
18-2960.6
30-4461.5
45-6463.0
65+48.2

One might think that as the prospect of irreversible, painful decline went from theoretically occurring sometime in a young stripling's distant future to suffocating a senescent creature in his bed at the retirement home, the willingness to allow someone to die with dignity would increase. Sounds plausible, but it's not quite the case. Life was cheap in the old republic and it became even cheaper during the imperium. Parallels might be drawn. Shifting from contemporary to historical relevance, the percentages of respondents who expressed comfort with suicide, by year (in defiance of Hegel, images in blogger have become more, not less, buggy over time--click on the image if its bleeding over into the sidebar is driving you to distraction):


When I came into this place, it was still a minority position. No longer, for better or worse.

GSS variables used: AGE, POLVIEWS(1-2)(3-5)(6-7), YEAR, SUICIDE1

10 comments:

IHTG said...

One might think that as the prospect of irreversible, painful decline went from theoretically occurring sometime in a young stripling's distant future to suffocating a senescent creature in his bed at the retirement home, the willingness to allow someone to die with dignity would increase. Sounds plausible, but it's not quite the case. Life was cheap in the old republic and it became even cheaper during the imperium. Parallels might be drawn. Shifting from contemporary to historical relevance, the percentages of respondents who expressed comfort with suicide, by year (in defiance of Hegel, images in blogger have become more, not less, buggy over time--click on the image if its bleeding over into the sidebar is driving you to distraction):

I enjoy your style of writing but I think you may have gone a bit overboard with this paragraph.

Audacious Epigone said...

The same thought occurred to me when I woke up this morning, heh.

Anonymous said...

The problem with legalizing rather than making exceptions is that it leads to a culture where suicide is expected rather than just allowed. So, now you have some who wish to have an option, that in reality they sort of already have - palliative morphine overdose, etc. But upon legalization, it would become expected. A person would be expected to 'take the shot' for their own good. The gov't keeps telling us that ever more immigration is for our own good and so on. Heck everything they want to do to us is for our own good.

Consider contraception. Young women are constantly told in no uncertain terms that this is what they want. They are told that they want to spend the years from 18-25 on the carousel. They are told this long before they even understand it. And they follow along.

Vote for euthanasia only if you want jr. counselliing you someday that this is what you want.

Dan said...

"When I came into this place, it was still a minority position."

It looks from your graph like the last time pro assisted suicide was in a minority position was around 1989.

You started blogging here in 1989? Or you arrived at this viewpoint as a young boy?

Dan said...

No discussion of assisted suicide is possible without talking about the Liverpool Care Pathway by Britain's National Health Service, which amounts to a massive euthanasia program. Not exactly assisted suicide but close. Patients who are terminal (aren't we all?) are put on a Terri Schaivo-style regimen of no food and water until death.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2161869/Top-doctors-chilling-claim-The-NHS-kills-130-000-elderly-patients-year.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_Care_Pathway_for_the_Dying_Patient
"At many hospitals more than 50 per cent of all patients who died had been placed on the pathway and in one case the proportion of foreseeable deaths on the pathway was almost nine out of 10"

Basically euthanasia is the number one immediate cause of death in the UK.
This can't be a phenomenon of extreme pain. It is too universal for that.

Audacious Epigone said...

Came into this place = being born

Anonymous said...

I certainly think that the elderly are over treated. They get all kinds of super expensive treatments on the taxpayer dime. I mean 80 year olds getting knee replacements to do exactly what they did before, sit and watch TV. Still, starving/dehydrating people to death is vicious because it is a long and very painful death. You want to legalize lethal doses of morphine? We can talk. You want that Liverpool protocol? Go f yourself.

Orthodox said...

The anonymous comment nails it. In discussions of terrorism we hear how it's impossible to stop the "lone wolf" because they can easily hide and don't leave as much of an information trail. Suicide is by definition the act of a "lone wolf." It is illegal, yet no one can stop you if you are determined to kill yourself.

Assisted suicide is misnamed, it is actually a legalized form of homicide. We don't legalize any forms of homicide for the obvious reason that it becomes a lot easier to "make it look like a suicide."

Prosector to mob hit man: "Did you kill this man?"

MHM: "Yeah, but it was that uh, assisted suicide thing. He was gay and really busted up about it, didn't want to tell his wife or nothing, so he asked me to off him."

Dan said...

--> MHM: "Yeah, but it was that uh, assisted suicide thing. He was gay and really busted up about it, didn't want to tell his wife or nothing, so he asked me to off him."

Lol!

Now that political correctness has killed most comedy, at least I can still find it on these blogs.

Mark said...

I've been in situations where I was in excruciating pain that remained constant, and did not relent for 6-8 hours. You really find out what you're made of during a torturous experience like that. You also find out what other people are really like.

Due to my experiences with hospitals and people involved in healthcare for the last few years, I've lost all trust and respect for doctors and nurses. I see the whole system as corrupt and in need of massive reform, not just due to cost, which is outrageous, but also the type of people they hire. No other industry can force you to pay massive amounts of money when they not only don't help you and don't care, but actually hurt you.

As far as assisted suicide, well they don't profit from it. They profit from keeping you alive, so it'll never happen.

Is it ethical? If someone has virtually no chance of getting well, is in constant pain and their quality of life is horrible, then I see it as mercy.

When you experience protracted pain that analgesics don't even touch, you'll understand. Until then you don't have enough perspective.