To Snuff Or Not To Snuff...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First, the fact that Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite authors, even has to have this conversation, breaks my heart just a little. Alzheimer's is such an awful disease that I wouldn't wish it on an enemy.

But second, the fact that Terry Pratchett, an author of such renown, is having this conversation gives me hope that people will finally really listen to the need for Alzheimer's treatment as well as the rationality and compassion of "assisted suicide."

Discworld's Terry Pratchett On Death And Deciding

I do want to note that Pratchett says of the term "assisted suicide": "I prefer not to use the word 'suicide' because suicide is an irrational thing whereas I think that for some people asking for an assisted death is a very rational thing," he says. "People who I have met who have opted for it are very rational in their thinking. And indeed so are their families, quite often, because they know they are in the grip of a terrible disease for which there is no cure and they do not want to spend any more time than necessary in the jaws of the beast." [emphasis mine]

Beyond the religious arguments against assisted suicide, there seems to be some fear of a 'slippery slope' whereby people who are 'weak' or undesirable are involuntarily forced to die (which becomes, umm, murder as opposed to suicide), or that people who are just weary of this life choosing to die, which advocates of assisted suicide oppose like Pratchett:

The clinic Pratchett visited for the documentary doesn't only serve those suffering from terminal illness. It also serves clients who are simply described as being weary of life, a practice Pratchett is opposed to.

He says he believes it's acceptable to have an assisted death if you're suffering from a terminal disease, but not if you're depressed.

"I've often felt depressed, everyone feels depressed," he says.
That this clinic in Switzerland, the Dignitas Clinic (yeah, I know, it's a Wikipedia link, but for obvious reasons this place doesn't have a web site), engages in assisted suicide for those people just "sick of life" does a disservice to the overall issue IMO. In fact, that adds fuel to the fire of the religious rationale (beyond rational rationale, as Pratchett points out) against assisted suicide; poor-me "sick of this life" stuff is really the goal of assisted suicide. I don't agree, but I think that unless that is regulated away, people may try to take advantage of "legalized" assisted suicide to kill themselves because they're untreated for depression or just fucking feel like it.

Is assisted suicide one in the same argument as abortion? Is a woman's control over her body and the "life" of the contents therein the same as a person's control over their own life's end? Pratchett looks at it this way:
He also has his life's work to tend to. Pratchett says the Alzheimer's has affected his ability to read and write, but it hasn't kept him from publishing. His new book, Snuff, is due out in the U.S. in October and, with the help of a computer dictation program, he's already working on his next two books.
In other words, the time to ask himself whether or not he wants to die because of his disease isn't right now; he can still publish and mostly has all his faculties. he still does what he loves and wants to do. But there may come a time where he can't, or where there is no more point. That's the point where he will make that decision; he just wants the ability to even have that option, not even that he wants to:
With all those plans, the author says he's putting off the question of when or if he will end his life.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm a writer who's writing books and therefore I don't want to die. You'd miss the end of the book wouldn't you?" he says. "You can't die with an unfinished book."
With assisted suicide, then, are we leaving a book unfinished? Or ending it when it should be ended? Is it the same moral question as whether or not abortion is ending a book before it starts?

6 comments:

Bob 2:07 PM  

Here's a tough one:

What if a child has a painful, terminal desease? Can an adult make the decision for them to commit "suicide"? If not, does not the child have the same rights to relieve their pain as an adult would?

Smitty 10:45 AM  

Does a kid even understand the consequences of "choosing" to do so, even after you explain it? The most-documented research shows that a kid is *at least* 15 before they truly understand consequence. I suppose they have the same "right" to relieve pain, but I don't know how *ethical* it'd be for a doc to ask the question.

But imagine being the parent to make that decision. Fuck that. "Timmy, daddy's gonna help make you go to sleep forever so the pain stops." Noooooo thank you.

But that's selfish, because that's about *my* feelings about their pain. Maybe Timmy mumbles back "thank fucking god, it's about time."

I haven't answered your question. I don't know if I can.

Bob 11:47 AM  

"I don't know if I can."

Probably becuase it is unanswerable.

Andy 3:16 PM  

Wow does this bring me back to the great assisted suicide debate of years ago. My boss was front and center in it, and it was crazy. I could give 100 arguments on either side. But I won't.

Thanks for dredging that all up again!

Bob 3:32 PM  

"Thanks for dredging that all up again!"

Fixed:

Thanks for dredging that all up again, asshole!

steves 7:33 PM  

Parent have the right to consent and refuse treatment for children, but this is not absolute and it also depends on the age. There have been numerous instances of parents wanting a certain treatment and the child saying no.

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