Obvious fact RtL campaigners have apparently missed: euthanasia and depression-related suicide are quite different issues

Quick request to “right to life” anti-euthanasia campaigners: when you’re attacking Dr Nitschke for daring to campaign (despite fairly outrageous censorship) for legislative change on the issue of enabling terminally-ill people in crippling pain to choose to die with dignity, would you mind not cynically and disingenuously mixing that issue up with suicide and depression? The two are quite separate, and it’s outrageous to suggest that someone who supports the former is somehow indifferent to the latter.

Many of those who believe (often due to having experienced the issue first-hand in their own family) that there is nothing but cruelty in the state prosecuting family and friends of people in absolute agony helping their loved ones end their lives painlessly and that people would be better protected from being bullied into such a course if it was legal and properly regulated (I’d want it to be very vigorously regulated to make sure families weren’t bullying the elderly into ending their lives under the impression they were “a burden”), also think we need to do much more to reduce the suicide rate and seriously address depression.

In fact, if we allocated fewer resources into prosecuting the compassionate and more into making sure we provide the medical services to help those suffering from depression and mental illness, we might find that we do a lot more to tackle and reduce suicide than criminalising euthanasia has ever done. One might in fact argue that the humane and kind approach on the latter issue is to help terminally-ill people to end their life painlessly, as the humane and kind approach on the former is to help other people who are at risk of taking their own life to build up the strength to overcome their problems and keep living, and that there is, in reality, no contradiction between the two.

Why is it that we hear your voices so much more on forcing terminally ill people to keep suffering than on pushing governments to provide better public mental health care, something that really would save lives?

PS Do you really think attacking Nitschke with lines like “what kind of a doctor is he, anyway” is going to persuade anyone?

ELSEWHERE: Looks like the Right to Life mob are going to have a protest march for outright lies in and shameless exaggerations of abortion statistics on Saturday October 9. I think attending a counter-protest might be a good idea.

9 responses to “Obvious fact RtL campaigners have apparently missed: euthanasia and depression-related suicide are quite different issues

  1. It’s such a difficult issue – how do you create a legal avenue for legitimate euthenasia without opening the door to illegitimate euthenasia (such as the “I’m a burden on my family” example Lefty provided above).

  2. Wisdom Like Silence

    Simple, Death Panels.

    No seriously.

  3. Why is it ‘right to life’ ers only campaign against the poor, the weak, the elderly? Why have i never seen them campaigning against bikies, mafioso or the military… or you know.. other multi-nationals who make money out of death a little more indirectly.

    It is a very particular kind of cowardice that makes a ‘right to life’ er.

  4. Mondo,

    I think the difficulties are a little overstated.

    Anyone can think, ‘I’m a burden on my family’ right now and there is nothing stopping them from committing suicide.

    However, if you want euthanisia, you’ve talk to a range of health professionals, increasing the likelihood that people with these kind of thoughts get some help.

  5. Wisdom Like Silence

    I.E Death Panels.

  6. Wisdom Like Silence

    A team of psychologists, judges, nurses but most importantly internal medicine doctors. Health and Law professionals. This issue should not be ideological, religious or political, it is purely a question of health care.

    FIRST Do no harm.

  7. but throwing together unrelated issues helps confuse everyone! and if you cant convince them, confuse them

  8. jordanrastrick

    There is clearly a distinction between a depressed suicidal teenager and a 70 year old cancer sufferer seeking euthanasia. The least reputable anti-euthanasia are happy to conflate it to try and score points. However, I think euthanasia supporters (of which I am one) need to be wary of making the opposite fallacy, and pretending that the difference between euthanasia and suicide is more clear-cut than it really is.

    If euthanasia were to become legal, should someone suffering from depression ever have access to it? I don’t think its trivial to justify why the answer should always be no.

    To continue with the comparsion comparison to terminal cancer:

    * Depressed people, like cancer sufferers, often (not always) want to die to ease their own suffering. There doesn’t seem to me any decent philosophical case to argue for the morality of asking people to tolerate anguish just because it happens to result from “mental” illness as opposed to “physical”.

    * Most depression, unlike cancer, is eminently treatable, and often transient (even in the absence of treatement). However, cases of cancer with even the grimmest of prognosis sometimes go into remission; and major depressive disorder, which effects a small minority of the population, is (by definition) not transient. There is no cure, and in the worst cases existing treatments do little if anything to ease suffering. Indeed chronic mental illnesses such as MDD and related disorders are ALL “terminal illnesses” – they are conditions that contribute to morbidity and which, having being diagnosed, you are guaranteed to die with (by definition, these disorders don’t ever go into remission, because we don’t know what that would actually mean due to our poor understanding of them.)

    * You can argue that depressed people are incapable of giving informed consent to euthanasia, because (again, by definition) they have an impaired mental state. And, once again, I don’t see it as obvious that someone suffering agonising pain has a “less” impaired mental state than someone who is deeply depressed.

    So I think a lot of the intuition concerning the teenager versus the retiree in the example actually comes down to the retiree simply being older, and therefore we think their judgement of the issue is sounder (which I think is actually quite a reasonable point for reasons I won’t go into right now.)

    Where does that leave depressed 65 year olds, then?

    There are only really two things that I think clearly tell the two conditions apart. First, that many 40 year olds will express a desire to be euthanised if they later go on to develop cancer; so they make this same judgement when there’s no possible argument about “soundness of mind”. Whereas in most cases I think someone not yet depressed would probably prefer that in future they be medicated rather than killed if they were to go on to develop depression.

    The second and most critical difference is how it affects the surviving loved ones of the person. I think many people could understand their spouse/parent/sibling etc wanting to die if they had cancer, but not depression. This is related to the above.

    Personally, I think this is actually an empathy problem – because “there’s nothing actually wrong with you”, people feel you wanting to escape your suffering (even if that involves leaving them behind) is more selfish, somehow. I’m not sure its an entirely fair judgement, but it certainly has to be accounted for.

  9. What’s wrong with asking for euthanasia because you don’t want to be a burden? That seems like a pretty genuine, selfless reason to me.

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