Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Never doubt that slippery slopes can be very very real

A Dutch group is pushing for legalized physician assisted suicide for people over 70 who are "tired of life."

Oddly, part of their argument is that the initial decriminalization of euthanasia in The Netherlands did not lead to any worse consequences: Says Eugène Sutorius (63): "It was thought to be the first step on a slippery slope that would lead the medical profession to lose its integrity. But I have seen nothing of the kind happen."

Apparently, since the first step down the slippery slope didn't lead to any other steps down the slope, we can go ahead and take another few steps down the slope.

At the bottom, at least to my mind, is euthanasia as a treatment for depression.


Orange said...

So, ennui in the elderly is best remedied by suicide rather than, say, getting a little more exercise or joining a seniors' social club? Whoa.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Orange: They say that you will be ineligible for the "treatment" if you are depressed. But I don't see how someone who says they are "tired of life" and doesn't have any other health problems could be anything but depressed.

Geoff Coupe said...

I think there's a difference between being able to make a conscious choice (active euthanasia), and having someone else choose the moment of your death for you (non-voluntary euthanasia). The latter is what most critics latch onto as their definition of "the slippery slope".

"Unbearable pain" is not the only criterion for which I think I should be able to choose the timing of my own death. Being conscious that I will shortly no longer be me (aka Alzheimer's disease), is for me a just cause for choosing active euthanasia.

Terry Pratchett puts the case very well: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/02/terry-pratchett-assisted-suicide-tribunal

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Geoff: one problem with slippery slope arguments is that people are rarely very clear on what they think the bottom of the slope is. They generally just point to some vague moral collapse, often involving comparisons to Nazi Germany.

You are right that involuntary active euthanasia is generally used as a bottom of the slippery slope. It seems to me, though, that there are unacceptable outcomes long before that point.

It is funny that people are afraid of the loss of personhood in Alzheimer's in a way that they are not afraid of the loss of personhood in death. Either way, you are no longer there, but one still seems much worse.

Geoff Coupe said...

Perhaps they are not necessarily afraid for themselves, but for those that are left behind? Perhaps they are seeking to maximise eudaimonia both for themselves and for others?