Monday, December 17, 2018

Death with dignity?

Supporters of assisted suicide say they support death with dignity. What conception of dignity are they using?

8 comments:

Starhopper said...

This is a delicate subject, and contrary to some "hard liners" gives no easy answers.

I note with fascination that, although Dante devoted an entire circle of his Hell to the virtuous pagans, and 1/3rd of another to the suicides, he chose the pagan suicide Cato (the Younger), who chose not to live in a world ruled by the victorious Caesar, as his guardian of the approaches to Purgatory (to which no damned soul is allowed admittance). Apparently, Cato's autodemise was "death with dignity", whilst the souls in the Wood of Suicides in the Inferno were those who had thrown their lives away (without dignity).

In 1st Samuel, Saul kills himself to avoid falling into the hands of the Philistines. His qualifies as a death with dignity.

In the modern world, the overwhelming majority of suicides are mentally ill, and therefore not responsible for their actions. But euthanasia is a separate category of suicide, and what is all too often considered to be "dignity" is in actuality an unwillingness to submit to pain. By itself, that is not an argument against euthanasia (there are much better ones available), but is most certainly a strike against it having anything to do with "dignity".

Hal said...

But euthanasia is a separate category of suicide, and what is all too often considered to be "dignity" is in actuality an unwillingness to submit to pain.

I fail to see why being forced to suffer needless* pain lends dignity to one's death. Having worked in health care for 30 years, I've seen some pretty undignified ways of dying. Unfortunately, I can't go into details regarding those deaths.

I do believe there is dignity in coming to terms with one's mortality, facing the fact that we all must, sooner or later, die.



*I call it needless because it is not part of a healing process.

Starhopper said...

"I fail to see why being forced to suffer needless pain lends dignity to one's death."

That was not my point. I did not say that pain adds dignity. But I do say that relieving pain does not add to it. My point is that they are separate issues.

Hal said...

Thanks for clarifying your original point.

Starhopper said...

Hal,

I just saw this, which is an absolutely perfect illustration of how internet conversations can descend into... well, into hell. We need to ask what each other really means, and then accept each others' clarifications.

Thank you for doing so.

Legion of Logic said...

I would assume by "dignity", in the case of a terminal illness for example, they mean the difference between dying after wasting away in a lot of pain, or choosing to punch out before going through those things. Many would choose the latter.

One core component of human dignity is treating someone with enough respect to allow them to make decisions for themselves. One of those decisions would be whether or not one is forced to die in a prolonged, agonizing manner.

Victor Reppert said...

We already have hospice care, which stops attempts to prolong life, and seeks to make the victim as comfortable as possible at the end.

Disability rights advocates are opponents of assisted suicide. They claim that most people choose assisted suicide not to deal with pain, but they cannot tolerate disability. But if we send the message that life with disability is not worth living, what does that tell those who battle disability every day?

https://dredf.org/public-policy/assisted-suicide/?fbclid=IwAR16Pisqk7ZTcwVtMAQOOwZRv3hiVP-qdQp7GmdP95jbJAnT6p3beLxZuG0

One Brow said...

Victor Reppert said...
We already have hospice care, which stops attempts to prolong life, and seeks to make the victim as comfortable as possible at the end.

Which my or may not result in a tolerable amount of pain.

Disability rights advocates are opponents of assisted suicide. They claim that most people choose assisted suicide not to deal with pain, but they cannot tolerate disability. But if we send the message that life with disability is not worth living, what does that tell those who battle disability every day?

I agree we need to provide a more positive view of the opportunities available to the disabled, but for a discussion of "death with dignity", there whether life is worth living is rather beside the point.