Assisted Euthanasia

Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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18 Responses

  1. E.D. Kain says:

    Really fantastic post, Chris. Such a tricky, complicated subject. Of course, I feel that everyone has the right to choose how they die – obviously we can never really prevent that. Suicide will always be our right. But it’s the whole “assisted” part that comes and makes it all so dreadfully difficult to parse out not just morally but in terms of the intersections of liberty.

    Organizations that assist in suicide – well, that means someone else is complicit in the death, right? Is it, therefore, suicide any longer? Isn’t it a little like Solitaire? Once you invite someone else to play it isn’t really Solitaire any longer is it? Assisted, even consensual (though you point out not always) murder might be a better term. Or assisted death at best, but no longer really suicide.

    Also really excellent points about the “perfection” or “sterilization’ of death. We used to have parlors in our homes, and now we have “living” rooms. We no longer tend to our dead. Assisted, “civilized” death certainly seems like the next step toward an even more sterile, impersonal accounting of our dead.

    And then there is the worry of institutionalization – especially as the state positions itself to be more heavily involved in health care. The Giver leaps to mind, wherein the elderly and the unfit babies (not to mention criminals, dissidents, etc.) were “released” from society. Death, in that fictional place, was so sterilized it had left the vocabulary altogether.

    Lots to think about. Great piece.Report

  2. greginak says:

    Good post.

    @ED- We can choose when to die but having help and support is “murder” and it is wrong. That is how I read your statement. Doesn’t that mean we can choose when to die but only if we are alone without family and friends. And I would suppose without having any help in doing it easily. I’m not trying to put a harsh characterization in your mouth but that sounds like shooting yourself in the head by yourself is fine, but dieing peacefully with meds surrounded by loved ones is wrong.

    I have had loved ones die. Maybe civilized is a poor choice of word. But peaceful isn’t. There is a big diff between quietly dieing surrounded by loved ones then in a violent accident or slowly and alone. Shouldn’t we want to make such a big event like dieing go the way we or our loved ones want. I don’t see that as making it impersonal, I’m not even sure of the connection. Doing it the way we want it is making it personal.

    I should add that while I am for assisted suicide I am completely against making Soylent Green out of people.Report

  3. North says:

    Putting the finger on the “civilized” term specifically you have to keep in mind that the original author was British. The old hold over attitudes from upper class British society equated orderly, dignified, planned and deliberate as being civilized characteristics. I don’t know that it meets civilized by any literal definition of the term. I have strong memories of my paternal Grandmother (Canadian but from an era of strong British influence and a life long monarchist) having a very similar attitude. A dreary party that was quiet and restrained was at least “civilized” where as a more rambunctious or raucous event that was also fun was met with pursed lips and a gentle scolding to behave in a civilized manner. So long story short I’d say this is old school British attitude free and clear. Alas I’ve spent a paragraph nibbling on surely the smallest nugget of your fine post.

    As for assisted suicide that’s one hell of a grey murky murk. ED, hopping onto your solitaire question: would providing the deck of cards thus make you complicit in the game? Would it then cease to be solitaire? Obviously it’s clearly not suicide if you inject a person with a lethal dose even if they are begging you to do it. But providing the means? Is not the lethal act still self murder? A personal action is required to cause the death, in this example the act of drinking the bitter cup. Even Dr. Death if I recall would set up an injection system and the “patient” would actually press the button delivering the lethal dose.

    Also the question of complicitness bothers me. Even in solitary suicide isn’t there a complicit party; the manufacturer of the gun/rope/car? The friends and family who overlook the warning signs or are inattentive? There’s also the question of laws: should we make laws that are impossible to enforce? If person in full soundness of their judgment makes up their mind to end their life there is nothing the law can do that will prevent it. A person who is committed to dying will surely die. It seems to me that the law merely forces them to do so by more destructive and painful means. If we own our own lives do we not own the right to end them? Nature and logic say yes to me. Now admittedly there’s a slippery slope question but I don’t have an answer to that. Near on every issue has a slippery slope question and I’ve not seen many slippery slope questions ever answered concretely to the satisfaction of the questioner.Report

    • Bob in reply to North says:


      1. having an advanced or humane culture, society, etc.
      2. polite; well-bred; refined.
      3. of or pertaining to civilized people: The civilized world must fight ignorance.
      4. easy to manage or control; well organized or ordered: The car is quiet and civilized, even in sharp turns.

      Number four supports your point, “control.” “organized,” “orddered.”


      • North in reply to Bob says:

        Bob, if you keep doing the drudge work of actually looking things up for me I’m going to have to start liking you quite against my own natural sour nature. Thank you; you’re a gentleman, a scholar and a fine upstanding blue pentagram with a winning grin.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Traditional religion had an answer to this problem.

    God sees suicide as a mortal sin. Indeed, despair itself is a sin. It is our duty to never, never, never, never give up. When we pass on God’s terms, rather than our own, we do His duty and will be welcomed into His Heaven and, if we had accepted Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (and, following that, did the whole fruits of the spirit thing), we could expect to hear “Well Done, Thou Good And Faithful Servant!”

    As it is, we now how deities that are far, far more sophisticated than that one, afterlives that are much, much more sophisticated than that one, but stuck with opinions regarding suicide that remain rooted in the whole “dude, that really creeps me out” no matter how sophisticated (of course, to be sure, certainly) we try to be.

    I’m under the impression that there are unintended consequences for sophistication that are pretty bad. We are finding that unsophistication had a surprising number of good unintended consequences.

    Of course, this is well-trod ground.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      “We are finding that unsophistication had a surprising number of good unintended consequences.”

      Lets not overlook the legion of bad ones though. Yes? But beyond that caveat I agree. Now can the same principle be translated into an a-religious moral context? Some sort of secular humanism line of arguement against suicide?Report

  5. E.D. Kain says:

    Remember – if you don’t like your ugly-ass default avatar, all you have to do is go over to to sign up – for free and using an existing email address – for a gravatar which will replace it here and on all WordPress-based blogs….Report