Thursday, October 08, 2015

Death with Dignity

There has been a lot of attention lately on Death with Dignity laws, most recently because the biggest state in the Union passed a End of Life Option Act this week as well as the anniversary of Brittany Maynard's assisted death in Oregon. 

There was a great panel on this subject on the Diane Rehm this week.  The panel had strong opinions on both sides, but they were able to stay in control and debate the issues.  The debate didn’t devolve into yelling back and forth. Rare these days, but more common on this show - kudos to Diane.

The arguments against were pretty weak:
  • They were based on someone’s religious beliefs. It is evil.  It is a sin. It is “wrong.” If you feel this way, I strongly believe in your right to abide by it. But I also strongly believe in another person’s right to have his/her own beliefs. 
  • They were based on false choices. It would be better to invest in better palliative care. I agree that investment in palliative care is also very important.  But why does it have to be either/or?
  • They were based on what-ifs.  Yes, there could be someone suffering from depression who wants the procedure.  Or perhaps some external pressure on a poor person to save the family the burdensome medical costs of treatment by using this option instead. But the laws can be (and are) designed to prevent these situations.
I agree that this is a very delicate issue and needs very careful consideration.  I am still waiting for an argument against it that convinces the libertarian in me that death with dignity shouldn’t be an option.  The one that resonates with me the most is that it could psychologically devastate your relatives.  But so can many other things that are legal.  The patient should consider the impact on his/her family and friends, but it is certainly not a valid reason to make it illegal. 

In case anyone is wondering, no I am not considering this for myself. I still have a few books left to write. But if the time ever comes, I do hope it is an option.