BLOGThe Weekly Digest: 11-16-16

By James Arnold Posted on: | November 16, 2016
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On to the news.

 

Physician-Prescribed Death Legal in Colorado

 

We told you about it back in August. And now, as a result of Tuesday's election, assisted suicide is legal in Colorado.

From The Verge:

"Assisted suicide — sometimes called physician-assisted suicide or 'death with dignity' — has become an increasing public health issue as it is legalized in more states. Supporters say it respects patients’ autonomy by allowing them to control their lives until the very end and die on their own terms. In many cases, supporters say, it could relieve physical suffering that would only continue to worsen.

"Opponents argue, often on religious grounds, that helping take a life in any situation is ethically wrong. Disability activists have also criticized some of the language surrounding the debate. For example, they claim that comments supporting the right-to-die because 'life isn’t worth living if you’re disabled' are discriminatory. There are also concerns that legalizing assisted suicide would lead to a “slippery slope” situation where people become too quick to use the option, or the guidelines for who can request assisted suicide become more and more lax."

The second paragraph demonstrates the principle we talked about yesterday: You should understand the arguments of your opponents. Above, the author suggests that those of us who do not wish our physicians be given licenses to kill are concerned for these reasons:

  • Religious opposition to ending a life in any situation.
  • Discrimination against disabled people, who may be told implicitly that their lives are not worth living.
  • A "slippery slope" where more people would ask or demand physicians participate in their patients' deaths.

Those reasons are mostly right, though not nuanced quite right (for example, "helping take a life in any situation is ethically wrong" does not sum up all religious objections to physician-prescribed death).

Here are two additional reasons that I take to be at the center of the opposition to physician-prescribed death:

  • Physicians should never kill their patients. The proper role of physicians is to heal and help, not to inflict harm or end a life.
  • The power dynamic in many of these cases gives power to the affluent companies in charge of insurance and medication, potentially hindering agency among those who may feel as though they have no choice in the matter. Put another way: If you are suffering from depression or some sort of terminal disease, and a physician recommends suicide instead of healthcare or help, you may not feel as though you have any viable option.

The latter is connected to what the author identifies as the loosening of "the guidelines for who can request assisted suicide," but the author misses the coercive reality that often accompanies physician-prescribed death.

These concerns are certainly true in Colorado, where physicians are not required to refer patients to mental health specialists to determine the influence of conditions like depression.

Laws that give physicians a license to kill are a real danger. It is a shame that Colorado has approved this law.

 
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James Arnold

News and Research Manager

James Arnold manages and edits the Alliance Alert, a daily repository of news in all forms—written, spoken, or in video format.

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