HomeoldTime for Commercially-Assisted Suicide?

Time for Commercially-Assisted Suicide?

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The logic of the human mind is guided by the principles and premises that serve as its foundation.

The fundamental premise of assisted suicide is that the right to be killed in order to end suffering is a human right. In other words, terminal illness may be a politically expedient entry point to the topic of euthanasia, but it is not the point of legalization.

In the journal Bioethics, bioethicist Roland Kipke posits that if assisted suicide is a right of autonomy, then we should permit entrepreneurs to enter the business of making people painlessly dead. This is what he calls “commercially-assisted suicide” (CAS). In “Why Not Commercial Assistance for Suicide?,” the author presents a compelling argument for the legalization of commercial suicide assistance.

CAS” means that persons who wish to commit suicide are assisted in a businesslike manner for a fee. In most cases, the core of this assistance may consist of providing a lethal dose of a drug to enable the person to kill themselves. In addition, the assistance may consist of counseling, accompaniment of the suicidal person during the dying process, and other services related to the suicide.

Businesslike’ means that the suicide aiders intend to provide their service on an ongoing basis and to earn (part of) their livelihood from it. CAS, as it is understood here, is therefore not a one-time act and is not (only) done as a favor… However, CAS, as it is understood here, is only provided by non-physicians.

This is not a novel concept.

  • Jack Kevorkian proposed a similar idea in the early 1990s.
  • The pending legislation in Scotland to legalize assisted suicide would create a new category of professionals, “licensed suicide facilitators,” who would presumably be compensated for their role in helping individuals to die and for the subsequent cleanup.
  • Switzerland has already permitted the establishment of non-profit suicide clinics, whose proprietors have derived considerable financial benefit from facilitating the demise of their clients (approximately $9,000 per individual).

Kipke posits that the presence of suicide professionals would render the arguments against legalizing assisted suicide less compelling, for instance, by removing the “corruption of medicine” concern from the equation. Furthermore, it would eliminate resistance from doctors opposed to assisted suicide, thereby ensuring that individuals who wish to end their own lives are not impeded in their intention to do so.

Another problem specific to PAS would also disappear. According to the prevailing view of the proponents, physicians (under the condition of PAS authorization) would not be obliged to provide assistance in suicide.

It would be up to the individual physician to decide whether or not to provide such assistance.

Although this practice seems to be well justified by the principle of autonomy, it could be very problematic for persons who seek assistance in their suicide. Whether or not their wish is fulfilled does not depend on clear, generally applicable criteria, but on the personal attitude of the physician… Obviously, this problem would not arise with commercial assistants.

However, there is a further issue to consider. Suicide entrepreneurs may have a financial interest in the deaths of customers. It is possible that medical professionals may be able to dissuade individuals from taking such actions. (It is curious to note the degree of paternalism displayed by these individuals.) Furthermore:

The role of commercial suicide assistants would be in contrast. They might not experience this general trust, and most people might be more skeptical about their judgments. Therefore, the risk of unreflected interference would be less.

One might inquire as to whether there is a place for assisted suicide as a last resort. As anyone who has perused this blog or my other published works is aware, the present moment is not the appropriate time. In any location.

However, Kipke believes that such concerns should not impede the creation of the new death industry.

But there is another problem with this argument: it is based on a conception of the good, or more precisely, on a conception of a desirable social condition that is probably not shared by all people. Such an argument can hardly be made from a liberal point of view.

According to the prevailing liberal conviction, the good is only important for the individual or for a particular community and should not be the basis of generally binding rules. This is certainly the case for concepts of the good that go beyond basic assumptions and represent concrete conceptions of the common good. This is especially true for conceptions of the good that do not enjoy general acceptance. The right takes precedence over the good, and the state must be neutral with regard to these conceptions of the good.

This accurately encapsulates the sterile and reductionist Dworkinian perspective on liberal society, demonstrating how contemporary progressives betray the fundamental purpose of liberalism, which was once to protect the vulnerable and defenseless. For a compelling argument demonstrating the necessity for liberals to oppose assisted suicide in order to fulfill their ethical obligations, please refer to Robert J. Jones’s work, Liberalism’s Troubled Search for Equality. For further information, please refer to my review at www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2008/03/liberalism’s-troubled-search-for-equality.

Kipke concludes by emphasizing an important distinction:

If one has no general objection to assisted suicide, there are many more reasons for CAS than for PAS to occur. Therefore, to reject CAS while endorsing PAS is not ethically justifiable, as it is not a coherent ethical position.

Consequently, the stance of those who advocate for PAS must be reconsidered. One must either expand their advocacy to include CAS and thereby radicalize their position considerably or revise their rejection of arguments that are generally raised against assisted suicide. In both instances, the position would be altered.

If one does not want a society in which suicide and its support are normal and taken for granted like other services, and at the same time wants to maintain the claim of coherence for one’s own ethical position, the only possibility is to reject PAS. Those who do not support CAS cannot support PAS.

Indeed, Kipke’s article provides compelling evidence that assisted suicide and euthanasia are not medical practices. Those who argue otherwise are merely attempting to exploit the authority of the physician in service to a culture of death.

It remains to be seen whether the practice of assisted suicide will ever be permitted. If we permit assisted suicide, it seems reasonable to extend that permission to other forms of euthanasia. Indeed, as previously noted, the proposal has already been put forth in Scotland. In Oregon, a psychologist had planned to engage in the business of assisted suicide, but was subsequently stripped of his license for unrelated ethical reasons.

It is unclear whether Kipke supports or opposes the practice of assisted suicide. However, his arguments are logical and flow directly from the premise of legalization.

Editor’s Note. This appeared on Wesley’s great blog at www.nationalreview.com/human-exceptionalism/393666/time-commercially-assisted-suicide-wesley-j-smith



Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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