Assisted Suicide, And The Lie Of The ‘Right To Die’
I recently argued in this space that legalizing Doctor-assisted suicide based upon the claim that there is a “right to die” lacks logical rigor. (Leave the lack of ethical rigor aside for a moment.) As I put it, “Legalizing assisted suicide has the effect of bureaucratizing what would otherwise be a personal, private choice. In sum, rather than increase the scope of personal liberty, legalizing assisted suicide actually shrinks it.” All that remains true. But the recent efforts of a doctor here in Portland to open an assisted suicide clinic bring to mind another way in the which the “right to die” argument is pure sophistry.
Even though suicide is technically illegal in many jurisdictions, there exists no way to enforce this law. If a person wants to kill himself, alas, he shall succeed. There is even a formal lobby that supports this so-called right: the Guardian has reported on an organization called the Hemlock Society, which supports peoples’ rights to shoot, poison, and stab themselves. Thus, the codification of a formal “right to die” hardly prescribes the way society operates: it merely describes it.
Assisted suicide laws do not, therefore, guarantee a right to die. Rather, they create a new right through legislation: the right of doctors to kill their patients. The only party whose rights are expanded by assisted suicide laws are those of physicians who wish to terminate their patients’ lives.
Given that American physicians are held to the Hippocratic Oath – that of, “Do No Harm,” – it is increasingly clear that Doctor-assisted suicide is philosophically and logically untenable. “Harm” is injury, and death is the gravest harm of all. Let’s euthanize assisted suicide laws before they do any more harm.