Question 2 is a four-page monster that deals with physician-assisted suicide. The four pages are because it's got tons of different sections trying to anticipate ways that such a law could be abused and to try to limit its abuse potential.
And this one is a bit more of a question for me. For a lot of reasons.
The first thing is that I'm not entirely clear how I feel about human euthanasia. At all. And I'm not sure how I feel about suicide. At all. So I'm REALLY not clear how I feel about euthanasia-by-suicide. And I'm absolutely sure that I'm not clear on whether this proposed law actually WOULD protect against abuse. I mean, it's bringing up protections against forms of abuse I hadn't even considered, which is good and all, but it makes me even more certain that there are forms of abuse that HAVEN'T been considered by the writers of the law.
I'm truly on the fence about this.
Here's what I'm certain of: in this country, we ABSOLUTELY don't do enough with pain medication. We are willing to have untold numbers of people suffer, because of the possibility that someone, somewhere, might use those medications to entertain themselves instead of using them for pain management. There's something in our national psyche that believes that "suffering is good and makes us stronger", and is dubious about relieving suffering.
Obviously, this point will come up again talking about the Medical Marijuana question, but it's relevant here, too.
This law is limited to mentally competent adults who have no more than half a year left. If such people knew that their pain and discomfort could be genuinely alleviated for half a year, that might make the prospect of checking out early less appealing.
My mother is a hospital chaplain who works with hospice patients, and I've talked with her about this, too. And, like me, she doesn't see this as an easy or obvious question, either.
What about the moral questions around suicide, and around euthanasia? When you get right down to it, physician-assisted suicide kind of swirls a whole bunch of moral questions into a truly confusing grey area.
Let me start with "suicide".
I believe that the fundamental human right, the one that all other rights spring from, is the right of self-determination. People have the right to live their lives as they choose, so long as doing so doesn't impinge on the rights of others. And that would appear to imply that people have the right to end their own lives at the time and in the manner of their own choosing.
I have had a friend involuntarily confined to a mental institution because zie was suicidal. Zie is alive today, and remembers very, very little about that whole time period, and we believe that I did the right thing. I believe I did the right thing.
But I don't know WHY I believe that I did the right thing. At the time, zie was arguing that I had a moral responsibility to respect zir right to self-determination and allow zir to commit suicide.
And I didn't, and don't, have a counterargument to that. When I take my ethical postulates, and follow them through my ethical calculus, it comes out that I was supposed to let zir die. And I didn't do that, and I KNOW that I was RIGHT not to do that, and I don't know why.
When I take my ethical postulates, and follow them through my ethical calculus, it comes out that a terminally-ill patient has the right to choose the time and manner of zir death. And that seems reasonable to me.
But I'm scared off of that conclusion because I'm sure that there's a difference between the terminally-ill patient and my depressed friend. But I can't put my finger on exactly WHAT that difference IS. And until I can figure out why one case is moral and the other isn't, I can't really be sure that one case actually IS moral, and the other case actually ISN'T moral.
I DON'T want to interfere with the right of self-determination of a terminally ill patient. And, well, if that right does include the choice to end life, that person certainly should be offered ways that are as painless and dignified as humanly possible.
But . . .
Edited to Add: if you're just skimming this, click through to the comments. They're ALL worth reading, but I especially want to point out both tikva's and metahacker's. If you can read BOTH of those and STILL be sure what you believe. . . well, I don't know what the "then" clause would be. They both make 100% compelling arguments to vote in opposite ways.