Thursday, November 19, 2015

Time to die

The Canadian government is trying to figure out how to implement doctor assisted suicide.  They are going so far as to put ads on websites to let people know that they can go to the government site and input their opinions to make sure their thoughts are considered.  There is no 'I don't want doctor assisted suicide to happen' option, because the Supreme Court ruled that it has to be legal.  All we are doing is trying to figure out the details.  I went through the whole process of picking numbers from 1-5 for a huge number of questions to explain how important things were, how much they worried me, and what I thought might be issues we should be concerned about.

The main takeaway from the questionnaire for me is that we don't need to fill it out.  The people who created it took time to clearly outline positions on both sides for most issues, had lots of notes to explain background when necessary, and clearly had an understanding of the difficulties far exceeding my own.  Just the fact that they asked about things like "Do you think that people with disabilities will be more likely to have their doctors recommend assisted suicide should they qualify for it?" tells you that they have really looked at all the angles.  The people running this are aware of the fact that people with disabilities might be treated as though their lives aren't as worth living, and that we need to be very aware of such things when constructing the rules.  Another good example is the questions about whether or not a doctor who will not perform assisted suicide should have to provide a referral to a doctor who will.

The public obviously wants to be consulted on this but I question how much their answers are going to be useful.  The gesture of letting people have input is reasonable but honestly I would much rather that the people who have clearly already figured it out just do the thing that seems right rather than worry about which answers got 1s and which got 5s.  Asking for simple answers to hard questions in that way just isn't going to tell you much, so even if the average person's opinions on the specifics were useful (which I question greatly) actually getting those opinions out of them in an actionable way doesn't strike me as likely.

Clearly we are going to have doctor assisted suicide, which is long past due.  Dying by choice is a right people should have, though certainly there have to be many precautions in place.  The people doing it are seeking public opinion, clearly know what they are about, and are definitely on the right track.

Big time thumbs up from me.


  1. Good analysis. This is why I don't second guess WotC anymore - they study the issues a lot more than I can, and have access to a lot more research than I do.

    By the way, if you have a lot of time, this defence of not allowing assisted dying caught my attention with arguments I had not heard:

  2. The arguments used there against doctor assisted suicide are ridiculous. More specifically, they assert that the majority ought to decide what is best for an individual and enforce that, even if it goes against the individual's wishes and causes tremendous suffering. It feels very much like a religious argument (though I didn't see that specifically) because it posits moral imperatives that are completely separate from human joy, flourishing, or even freedom. I can't get behind any argument that says "this stuff is right, so we will cause as much suffering as required to support the inherent rightness".

    Which is pretty much what I thought already, so it isn't new, but it is good to consider alternate viewpoints to see if they contain anything useful.