Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Triumph of the Will

This op-ed deals with the unspoken assumptions of so-called "living wills":

The [Euthanasia] Society [of America] moved into full gear in the late 60's and 70's with its introduction of the seemingly innocuous living-will documents. Eileen Doyle, R. N. writes, "All of the living-will type of legislation is geared to blur the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary care. The long-term purpose of right-to-die or living-will legislation is the great propaganda value in conditioning people, state by state, to accept that they have a right-to die. In some cases such conditioning may result in a duty to die."

We play a mug's game every time we utter the words "choice" and "privacy." By elevating the desires of the autonomous will to the sole determinant of all public policy, by accepting the premise that we can only locate the basis for any morality that hopes to be publicly binding in the whims of the individual autonomous will, we invariably are driven to allow the stronger will to prevail over the weaker -- we've removed any other criteria by which we might make judgment. Every argument we make against euthanasia that shares these premises, unexamined and unmodified, can only succeed partially, as a kind of technicality on which one specific person might humbly be permitted to continue her (otherwise morally unjustifed) existence. In the long run, this is a losing situation. Yes, we certainly should grant that people should not be forced to accept medical treatment they refuse, but we speak of legal and philosophic fictions when we speak of a right to choose manner and timing of death granted to us by the Goddess Privacy.

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