Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Different Sort of Death Penalty

Link to Mail Online Article 
What with all the brouhaha over the nature of drugs used in legal executions here in the U.S.A., there is a measure of irony in certain people cheering the voluntary euthanasia of two men in Belgium.  

  • Identical twin brothers euthanised by doctors in unique Belgium case 
  • Twins, who were born deaf, made decision after learning they would go blind 
  • The brothers, who spent their lives together, were unable to bear the thought of never seeing each other again
A sad situation, certainly. Helen Keller may have had the courage to live deaf and blind. I don't know that I would. I fear losing my sight. It's difficult to live in the world without judging others, and especially hard when you think a person has made the wrong choice—but it is a choice you would have made were you in the same circumstances. The difference between the twins and me is that I probably would have lacked the courage to roll myself into a hospital and asked to be killed.

I can see situations in which I would prefer death to life. What I cannot see is shifting the responsibility to the state. If these men preferred to die rather than live blind and deaf, there are simpler, more responsible methods than engaging the state and its agent. 

That's generally my complaint about "assisted euthanasia" and "euthanasia" laws. Other than the macabre actions of Dr. Kevorkian, assisted euthanasia here in the U.S.A. has been relatively innocuous, or at least as much so when the end product is a dead body. In other countries, voluntary euthanasia has become involuntary euthanasia. Give a man a hammer, and every problem becomes a nail.

Interestingly enough, the evolution from assisted suicide to outright force majeure killing didn't happen in one day, which doesn't bode well for the end result of the assisted suicide movement here in the U.S.A. 

Will MDs in Oregon and Washington, the two states first to enact assisted suicide laws, one day lead the nation toward involuntary euthanasia? I don't know. I only know I believe it will happen, if not in Oregon or Washington then somewhere else. 

I would prefer the decision—and the requirement for action—be left to the individual and affected family and friends. If there is some opportunity for misdeeds in such a circumstance, there is also more autonomy.

And autonomy is the core objection for people marginalized—or in particular, people with disabilities. When the state is capable of mandating the "right to die," the state becomes capable of mandating the "compulsion to die."

It will be so, I think, in spite of the protests from people (mainly those who have some spiritual basis for their opposition), and it will be so sooner than we think. What is happening in the Netherlands is but the first step.

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