If Suicide Isn’t Wrong, It Isn’t Wrong

The editors of First Things note a worrisome trend in Oregon (try here if that link doesn’t work for you):

In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal for the elderly and infirm, state officials have been concerned of late with a rising suicide rate among Oregonians who aren’t officially considered damaged goods. With the Oregon suicide rate 35 percent higher than the national average, bureaucrats at the state health authority have expressed dismay (but ate, perhaps, also relieved) that suicides of the elderly have been legally redefined so as not drive this horrifying statistic up even further.

Promote “safe sex,” and you’ll get a youth culture more concerned about the sex than the safe. Promote compassionate allowance of suicide, and you’ll find a surprising number of people thinking themselves better off dead.

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Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Why is it humane to euthanize a terminally ill pet who is in pain and distress, but it’s wrong to do the same for a human?

Justin Katz
10 years ago

Why is it acceptable to eat pigs, but not people?
Note, as well, that we (as a society) also euthanize pets that are unable to find a home, whatever their health.
Be their cuddliness as it may, pets are still pets, and people are still people.

Sammy
Sammy
10 years ago

What does it say about our country, when we consider euthanasia of the family dog with painful cancer merciful,
But humans suffering from painful terminal cancer shouldn’t be allowed the same mercy….. when that’s their wish ? ?
With love for all
Sammy

michael
michael
10 years ago

Isn’t the foundation of most religion based on the expectation (faith)that the next existence is far better than this one? Does it not stand to reason that people would be killing themselves left and right to get to it?
Never mind, I forgot that pesky suicide sin thing.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“Be their cuddliness as it may, pets are still pets, and people are still people.”
Right. So shouldn’t people be afforded the same minimal dignity as an animal?

brassband
brassband
10 years ago

“What does it say about America . . .?”
One would hope that it’s an indication that we place a greater value on human life than we do on animal life, and that (at least in places other than Oregon) we recognize the inherent danger in a program that tends to devalue the lives of the infirm and the disabled.

Justin Katz
10 years ago

Patrick:
Brassband beat me to the punch. Beware of seeking to give human beings equivalent dignity to that which we afford dogs. You might just succeed.

michael
michael
10 years ago

I have a problem with the whole suffering thing. There is no dignity in death, only death. Dying well is a myth. The Christian belief that suffering is noble, as exemplified by the very symbol of Christianity, Christ nailed to a cross, is blasphemous to the gift of life.
Squeeze every bit of enjoyment you can out of life, it ends abruptly at times, through years of suffering others.
I don’t believe that there could possibly be any correlation between legal suicide for terminally ill people and the general population. It’s quite a leap to take your own life, cultural mores have little if anything to do with it.

Swazool
Swazool
10 years ago

Back to your post, it is difficult to discuss when the links don’t work, but your facts are incorrect. Oregon is 9th, interestingly enough Ri is 45th out of 51 with Dc included.
http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=05114FBE-E445-7831-F0C1494E2FADB8EA

Swazool
Swazool
10 years ago

Justin, I am a little disappointed in you. If you really want to become a full time blogger, you should hold yourself to a high standard, it only took me 30 seconds to google those stats. Commenting on fake statistics does not a make credible blog.

Justin Katz
10 years ago

What are you talking about? I didn’t give a rank for Oregon; I just conveyed the information that its suicide rate is 35% higher than the national average. Your statistics put it around 38%.

Swazool
Swazool
10 years ago

These statistics put the rate for Oregon at 16.9 where the national average is 11.5. That would make it 5.4 percentage points higher. Alaska has a 21.8 rate, (could be that they had to deal with Palin), but there rate is over 10% higher than average. Is assisted suicide legal there?

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

“16.9 where the national average is 11.5. That would make it 5.4 percentage points higher.”
Apples and oranges… It might be 5.4 points higher, but that’s of no importance. (16.9/11.5=1.46), or 46% higher, no?
Here’s what matters:
1. was there a difference -before- the assisted suicide law?
2. Did the difference grow since passage, meaning that the acceptance of legal suicide bring about a cultural change that actually encouraged it?
3. Does it matter?
“Alaska has a 21.8 rate… is over 10% higher than average. Is assisted suicide legal there?”
It’s not ten percent higher, it’s -ten points-, almost double the national average. I don’t believe suicide is legal there, but there might be major cultural differences with the native population that skew the numbers, or Alaskans have accepted death just as much (more?) as Oregonians, since both life and work in Alaska tend to be much riskier. Also, the climate is bleaker. I’m sure Ken can chime in, but I assume Hawaii has a rather low rate?
Anyone here who knows me can predict my opinion on the issue: It -might- encourage more suicide, but the suicides are less damaging to families and finances when they’re properly meditated upon. I consider the ending my own life a -fundamental right-, one that I afford to my own pets. I think I should also be able to exercise that right.

Justin Katz
10 years ago

Mangeek:
You afford your pets the right to end their own lives, or you afford yourself the right to end their lives for them?
How about legal guardians of or legal custodians for the elderly? Are they like you with your pets?

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

Fair enough, and good points on both.
The pets have a right to die with dignity, and with the least amount of suffering as possible. Obviously, it’s up to me (and the missus) to make that determination. Animals are clearly ‘property’, extensions of their masters. People aren’t like that.
I would say that if a person hasn’t expressly put in legal writing that they want to be euthanized in the event they are totally incapacitated, they should be given the benefit of the doubt and kept alive. Maybe exceptions could be made for cases where family members can corroborate the wishes of the incapacitated. Naturally, I would prefer for the legal stuff to get sorted state-by-state, so people can move to places where the laws suit their values best.

Justin Katz
10 years ago

Let’s try this:
From whence derive animals’ right to “die with dignity”?
Obviously, the next question is the derivation of humans’ right to same.
And the question after that is why a family couldn’t argue that an elderly member is simply not capable of making the accurate determination that his dignity requires his death.
And, in the interest, of efficiency, I’ll throw this one in, too: Why shouldn’t an 18-year-old outcast determine that his only chance for dignity is death?

Swazool
Swazool
10 years ago

Remember Terry Shivo?
That was an interesting case. Especially when her husband was the one who wanted to pull the plug. At that point marriage didn’t seem so sacred. It was interesting to watch the people who looked like those talk about that sanctity of marriage fight against the right of that husband to voice what his wife had wanted.

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

From whence derive animals’ right to “die with dignity”? From me, the owner. I’m charged with the proper care of the animal, and it’s my property. We need laws that recognize that ‘proper care’ has a minimum definition (to punish abusers), but the dog gets its rights from me. It’s not ‘sentient’, so I make the existential decisions for him. Obviously, the next question is the derivation of humans’ right to same. I suppose my rights as a human are inherent to our sentience. Creatures of self-determination don’t ‘get’ rights from anywhere, they are inherent to our existence. In order to get along in society, we taper them down with laws of God and Man to facilitate coexistence and commerce. I don’t ‘get’ rights from the constitution, the constitution protects some of the rights that I already bring along as a human. I think that would jive with pretty well with Aquinas, enough to enjoy a good cup of tea together. And the question after that is why a family couldn’t argue that an elderly member is simply not capable of making the accurate determination that his dignity requires his death. Maybe there’s a point at which they -should-, if the person hadn’t previously put into writing that they wanted otherwise. Which way our system ‘defaults’ is going to be a big issue in the near future. Already, a huge portion of government health care dollars are invested in life-extending care for the hopelessly terminal. And, in the interest, of efficiency, I’ll throw this one in, too: Why shouldn’t an 18-year-old outcast determine that his only chance for dignity is death? Again, maybe he should. I think one of the conditions for allowing people to ‘choose death’ would be a screening for psychological problems and offers of therapy, but I… Read more »

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