Can’t Be “Private, But”
A comment from Joe Bernstein, to yesterday’s post on assisted suicide, points us toward a deeper conversation:
I am pro-life on the issue of abortion, but on this I believe that if someone with all their mental faculties intact makes a decision to commit suicide due to a hopeless, painful, or tortuous medical situation it is not a crime for someone else with the correct credentials to help them make sure they go out with the least discomfort to themselves and the least trauma to their loved ones.
Sticking a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger is a surefire way to accomplish suicide, but not everyone can do it, and it leaves a scene families will never be able to put out of their minds.
I sat with my grandmother who lived with us, and my father many years later as they declined in severe pain due to terminal cancer-neither considered suicide, in one case due to religious belief, and in the other case, just the opposite.
I agree with Patrick here. What I don’t want to see is the demonic social engineers that infest this administration set up a bureaucracy for this kind of thing. It is a private matter.
The problem is that, once you introduce restrictions such as judging mental faculties and credentialing assistants, the matter is no longer private, strictly speaking. Indeed, it is the argument of the Wesley Smith essay to which I linked that assisted-suicide ideologues are not inclined to dwell very long, on an individual basis, determining whether somebody is mentally fit to enlist their services, and they’re certainly not inclined to report questionable cases to the authorities.
Moreover, the “private matter” boundary is anything but an impermeable barrier. Take this story as allegory:
The case came to the attention of Minnesota authorities in March 2008 when an anti-suicide activist in Britain alerted them that someone in the state was using the Internet to manipulate people into killing themselves.
Last May, a Minnesota task force on Internet crimes searched Melchert-Dinkel’s computer and found a Web chat between him and the young Canadian woman describing the best way to tie knots. In their search warrant, investigators said Melchert-Dinkel “admitted he has asked persons to watch their suicide via webcam but has not done so.” …
The report also said Melchert-Dinkel checked himself into a hospital in January. A nurse’s assessment said he had a “suicide fetish” and had formed suicide pacts online that he didn’t intend to carry out.
Few people are as overtly demented as Melchert-Dinkel, of course, but if we’re going to determine who is or is not fit to kill themselves, we’re also going to have to determine who is or is not fit to make that judgment and to assist. Either determination ultimately draws arbitrary, debatable lines that will not withstand the human slide toward tragedy that is nigh upon inevitable when our society pushes “compassion” in advance of the tragic.