Oops. I may have used the wrong term in the title of this topic. I meant for us to discuss the Right To Die movement, the movement to pass “assisted suicide” and “physician-assisted suicide” laws. An assisted suicide is just what it sounds like: Suicide with help from another person. In an assisted suicide, someone helps, but the person to be killed administers the instrument of their own death themselves. It becomes euthanasia only when a doctor directly commits the killing. No U.S. state allows for euthanasia.
However, the assisted-suicide movement has become more popular in recent years. We all remember Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead coma patient from 10 years ago that the U.S. Congress tried to interfere with (link below). Since then, five U.S. states and several countries have adopted versions of assisted suicide in cases of terminal illnesses – and, in some cases, when an illness is not terminal. I thought the many ethical and practical issues raised by assisted-suicide would make for a good Civilized Conversation.
I don’t know much about this issue, so my opening remarks will just be a brief framing. I’ll probably just summarize the U.S. state laws and the Dutch and Swiss statutes on assisted suicide and explain what they do and do not allow. Then, I’ll try to make sure that our discussion covers the major moral and medical and political issues surrounding assisted suicide.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What are the general pros and cons of assisted suicide and euthanasia?
- Five U.S. states allow assisted suicide, and six other countries allow either it or euthanasia. What do these laws do? What have their effects been? Are their publics happy with the laws?
- Do you support these laws? If so, under what restrictions should they operate? How could any such laws be written so as to address opponents’ religious and moral objections?
- Is lousy end-of-life medical care a part of the problem? How could end-of-life care be improved in the United States?
- ABCs of this issue (some are by pro- or anti-euthanasia groups)
- Pros and cons:
- Supportive of it.
- Opposed to it.
Next Week: The Future of Marriage in the United States.