Monday, January 23, 2006

Morality Monday

I was hoping just to get some feedback today on something I've been reading about as of late: assisted suicide. The Supreme Court ruled last week in Gonzales v. Oregon that an attempt by former Attorney General John Ashcroft to prevent Oregonians from taking advantage of a law legalizing assisted suicide (in very limited circumstances) was unconstitutional. Ashcroft (believe it or not) overstepped his authority.

Regardless of this small victory to Right to Die supporters, the Court has consistently held that there is no constitutional right to end your life. This means only that the Court will not strike down on constitutional grounds a state statute banning assisted suicide. Likewise, the court has never (and presumably would never) strike down a state law legalizing assisted suicide. Incidently, only three states in the US DO NOT currently statutorily prohibit physician assited suicide.

Now I have always been on the side of the Right to Die. Not fervently so, but more so than most other issues (for instance my luke-warm support of abortion). Furthermore, I think the Right to Die is encompassed in the 14th Amendment's concept of "liberty." Lately, I've tended to side with the strict constitutional constructionists on issues like abortion and free speech (on which more in a later post), but I think Scalia and his cronies are dead wrong on this one. What does individual liberty mean if it doesn't include control over whether that individual exists at all? The right to decide the fate of your own being seems like the very fundamental concept on which other liberties should spring.

Am I wrong? What say should the government have in whether a person chooses to continue existing or not? I'm particularly interested to hear what opponents of the Right to Die have to say. I know a bit of the contrary arguments from reading some amicus briefs, but I would enjoy hearing from some real people. That might be a tall order considering my very limited audience, but I can dream.


Blogger Xeno said...

Having suicide illegal is just silly because is someone actually commits the crime then what are you going to do. Throw the body in jail? All it accomplishes is making assisted suicide also illegal in that they are helping commit a crime. I am for it in that what more fundamental right of self determination is there than your own existence.

To argue the other side is fairly easy though. If the taking of a life is wrong then it naturally extends to the taking of your own life. If death can be construed as harm then a doctor is oath bound to not help in killing a patient. Etc, etc...

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Leo said...

The main argument against it, as I understand it, is that the people who choose to end their lives are mostly clinically depressed. I don't know whether that is true, and I don't know what it would mean if it was true (is a person who wants to end their own life clinically depressed by definition?), but that is the argument.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Xeno said...

These pretzels are making me thirsty!

7:55 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Coupla things. In a medical context, I wonder if having it illegal allows hospitals to take more control or have greater responsibility over the patient, with the result that the clinically depressed are more likely to get treatment that would result in them having long, happy lives as opposed to offing themselves.

Similar consideration in old people wanting to die - if these people could be given antidepressant medication and they would then live happy lives for a substantial period of time, that would be a good thing.

Of course, both of these notions spring from a point of view that my/society's judgment is better than the individual's - we know better what's good for you, that is. Which is obnoxious, but in the case where people are sick in the head, might be true.

12:23 PM  

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