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[P]
Dutch to legalise euthanasia

By spiralx in News
Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 09:03:52 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

On Tuesday the Dutch parliament is set to vote on whether to legalise euthanasia for patients undergoing "unbearable suffering". The law is supported by the government and 90% of the population, and would merely make legal an act which has been tolerated for many years, but it would make the Netherlands the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia. The full story is here at BBC News.


For many years, the Netherlands has been the only country in the world where euthanasia has been openly practised. Since 1984 doctors meeting the following requirements published by the Royal Dutch Medical Association and confirmed by court decision would not be prosecuted:

  • The patient makes a voluntary request.
  • The wish for death is durable.
  • The patient is in unacceptable suffering.
  • The physician has consulted a colleague who agrees with the proposed course of action.

However, although the population is almost entirely in favour of legalising euthanasia, there are concerns about whether adequate safeguards are in place to ensure that euthanasia is truly voluntary, and not an action taken by the doctor without the patient's consent or knowledge.

Do you think that euthanasia is right or wrong? In what circumstances is it permissible? And do you think that the Dutch model will ever be taken up elsewhere in the world?

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Dutch to legalise euthanasia | 43 comments (43 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Euthanasia in Australia (3.87 / 8) (#1)
by TimL on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 06:39:19 AM EST

I don't have too much to say on this topic, so I'll make it quick.

1. The Netherlands may be the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia, but I know the Northern Territory in Australia had it legalised a few years ago.
2. Here is a link to a story comparing euthanasia in Australia and the Netherlands.
3. I fully support euthanasia. If somebody is in unbearable pain and wants to die, who am I to stop them?

----
"Teach a man to make fire, and he will be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he will be warm for the rest of his life."

Indeed... (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by Mashx on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 10:05:02 AM EST

...and if you look at the same site that Spiralx took one of his links from, namely http://www.euthanasia.org/else.html then it gives the list of other places, although it isn't quite up to date regarding the Netherlands.

Personally I have been in favour of Euthanasia since being shown a documentary about it back in school regarding the Dutch view, and even more so having seen my Grandmother die in quite a lot of pain as her spine collapsed.

I don't think that it will ever be possible to legislate for every case, because of course there will always be murder, but I much prefer the idea that I can choose to be put out of my (possible) misery than not at all.

Woodside!
[ Parent ]

Deliberate irony? (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by leviathan on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 11:57:23 AM EST

Your tagline as you posted:

"Teach a man to make fire, and he will be warm for a day.
Set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life."

Now, that's a good definition if "unbearable pain" ;)

--
I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]

I'm all for it, but... (3.85 / 7) (#2)
by HiQ on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 07:23:49 AM EST

As the BBC articel mentioned, there is also a discussion (and a court case) going on in Holland about whether euthanasia should also be allowed when a patient suffers form unbearable mental suffering. The problem there lies of course in the fact that it is not always ease to decide whether or not a patient still has the right state of mind to decide, and that those people should sometimes be protected from themselves. I saw a discussion program about this on Dutch tv. Some old people where arguing that if you're old, and have nothing left to live for (family and friends all dead, so much physical problems that they can't leave their rooms anymore) but still can think clearly, why shouldn't you be able to decide to die. They where just sitting there, waiting for the reaper to show up. What do you think, in those cases, should you also be able to go to 1 or 2 doctors and ask for euthanasia?
How to make a sig
without having an idea
just made a HiQ
Why not? (no really, I'm asking...) (3.66 / 3) (#4)
by whatnotever on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 10:40:17 AM EST

Are there any arguments against euthanasia that aren't based on religious/spiritual beliefs? Is it ever more than "It's wrong to kill people"?

I participated in a debate about euthanasia back in junior high, but can't remember a single argument against it...

I suppose a large part of the issue is that it's very complicated and dependant on the particular circumstances of each case...



ethics and morality (3.50 / 4) (#5)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 11:13:45 AM EST

whatnotever asks:

Are there any arguments against euthanasia that aren't based on religious/spiritual beliefs?

I would answer this question with another question: are there any arguments for or against any behavior that aren't based on religious/spiritual beliefs?

I would contend that all issues of ethics and morality boil down to religious/spiritual beliefs. As an example, the people in most modern socities choose to believe that people have an inherent right to own private property. This belief makes theft immoral and provides the impetus to make theft illegal.

Another way to illustrate the quandry is to reverse the question on euthanasia. Are there any arguments for euthanasia that are not based on religious/spiritual beliefs? It seems to me that the argument of using euthanasia to prevent unbearable pain is essentially a religious statement about what is "good." Even more practical arguments that incurable ailments should be finalized by euthanasia comes down to a judgement call on the best way to use scarce resources, which in the end is religious/spiritual question on what is the greater good.

[ Parent ]

Religion? (3.50 / 4) (#7)
by Alarmist on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 12:16:26 PM EST

I would contend that all issues of ethics and morality boil down to religious/spiritual beliefs.

This is an interesting statement. I disagree, but only because I would add the qualifier, "...all issues of ethics and morality can be boiled down to religious/spiritual beliefs."

Before this goes too much further, we should probably agree on definitions of religious and spiritual beliefs. I've got a feeling (though I could be wrong) that you and I differ on what religion is.

Specifically, I want a chance to discuss the following statement in more detail:

It seems to me that the argument of using euthanasia to prevent unbearable pain is essentially a religious statement about what is "good."

This, of course, will be tricky if we don't agree on what religion is first. I think that religion involves a belief in a god(dess)(s) or other beyond-human power. What do you think?

Spirituality I define more vaguely: the belief in some sort of unifying thread beyond corporeal similarities. This unification can be among sentient creatures, non-sentient creatures, or anything else.


[ Parent ]

definition of religion (3.66 / 3) (#9)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 12:57:29 PM EST

Most people define religion as a set of rituals or practices that typically involve some sort of deity.

It seems to me that this definition does not cover a good deal of what I would consider to be religions (such as Zen Buddhism).

Therefore, my working definition of a religion is any system of beliefs that causes an individual to modify their behavior according to philosophical, ethical, moral, and/or spiritual beliefs.

In the past some have attacked my definition as being to comprehensive and that eating a ham salad sandwhich because it tastes good becomes a religious act. I would counter that only if one is a hedonist does eating a ham salad sandwhich because it tastes good become an act of ethical, moral, philosophical, or spiritual nature.

[ Parent ]

Er... (4.50 / 4) (#12)
by trhurler on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 01:42:20 PM EST

Well, first off, I do see a clear distinction in two particular types of beliefs that you're outright papering over. This is, some beliefs are articles of pure faith; there is no rational reason to accept them - an example might be, "Humanity will go on forever." We don't know whether it is true or not, and taking ANY stand on it is somewhat silly when you get down to it. On the other hand, you have beliefs such as "Beer can make you drunk." This is a claim well supported by observation and theory.

The reason I mention this is that the former, regardless of whether a deity or other typical spiritual flavoring is involved, has the essence of religion in that it cannot be rationally examined, but rather only either accepted, rejected, or abstained from. The latter, on the other hand, can and should be examined closely and treated appropriately. This makes some belief systems justifiable, and others not justifiable. Of course, this lack of justifiability is no argument against such a belief system to someone who believes in it, because by definition, arguments are useless against or for such a belief system.

That said, the original questioner, who asked if there were any but religious arguments against euthanasia, has hit the nail squarely on the head; in general, there are not, as long as adequate safeguards are in place to ensure that it is voluntary and appropriate to the circumstances. In the US, it has gone by the name "assisted suicide," which is a better term to differentiate this "good euthanasia" from policies such as "kill all people over the age of 70" and so on.

Of course, in the US, this issue will end up just like abortion: both sides selectively quote facts to make themselves appear righteous and outright ignore the problems their positions pose, and neither side's "thinking" is worth the time it takes to hear it out. The anti crowd will consist primarily of holy rollers to whom facts are mostly irrelevant, and the pro crowd will consist primarily of crusaders who, despite their lack of understanding of -why- they believe what they believe, are utterly convinced that the facts are on their side. Pathetic, but that's what you get when you let moral and epistemological education consist primarily of a mix of religion and state-imposed altruism.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
whether a belief is rational or not doesn't matter (4.50 / 4) (#14)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 02:31:30 PM EST

Well, first off, I do see a clear distinction in two particular types of beliefs that you're outright papering over. This is, some beliefs are articles of pure faith; there is no rational reason to accept them - an example might be, "Humanity will go on forever." We don't know whether it is true or not, and taking ANY stand on it is somewhat silly when you get down to it. On the other hand, you have beliefs such as "Beer can make you drunk." This is a claim well supported by observation and theory.

First off, trhurler is attempting to make a multi-valented reality into something that is binary. Most beliefs are a mix of experience and brainwashing by the powers-that-be-in-our-lives (parents, schools, churches, etc.). I contend that very few people make any sort of attempt to evaluate beliefs on a rational level.

Second, trhurler implies that any knowledge not born of experience can not be come about in a rational fashion. Aside from blatantly assuming the truth of empiricism which is, in essence, an unprovable assertion, there are several ways in which a person can rationally accept statements that were not learned from experience. For example, someone that has never consumed beer and has never witnessed someone consuming beer, the statement "beer can make you drunk" must be taken on faith no less than the statement "humanity will go on forever." I would contend that it is not irrational for an individual to take on faith, the statements of others that the individual believes are trustworthy.

Third, my experience has taught me that it doesn't matter whether a person's religion has been come about in a rational matter or not, it is still matter of religion.

Take trhurler's empiracle statement, "beer can make you drunk." This is a falsifiable statement, fair enough. The question is, how many people incorporate that statement into a system of beliefs? The statement that "beer can make you drunk" offers no philosophical/moral/ethical/spiritual insight into any sort of decision making. Only when one starts to make a value judgements about the philosophical/moral/ethical/spiritual implications of getting drunk on beer does a person's religion come into play.

Similiarly, trhurlers statement of faith, "humanity will go on forever," makes no value judgment on whether such is a good thing or not. Believing in this type of statement will not affect how a person makes any type of decision until that individual starts to assign some sort of moral/ethical/philosophical/spiritual importance to the question of whether or not "humanity will go on forever" is a desirable goal or not.

[ Parent ]

Beliefs, empiricism, etc (4.50 / 4) (#15)
by trhurler on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 03:10:53 PM EST

First off, trhurler is attempting to make a multi-valented reality into something that is binary.
Actually, reality IS binary. Every example ever given of something which is claimed not to be has later been found to be incorrect; color is a common example, but there is a finite number of possible colors, as it turns out. Whether human interactions and perception are simple enough that this can be a useful way to consider them is a reasonable question, but it is not plausible to assert that a thing both is and is not green, or that a given point on it is partly not green, or some silly thing like that.

In short, logic is a valid way of analyzing the world, but it is not infallible nor is it necessarily capable of handling infinite complexity in finite time.
Most beliefs are a mix of experience and brainwashing by the powers-that-be-in-our-lives (parents, schools, churches, etc.). I contend that very few people make any sort of attempt to evaluate beliefs on a rational level.
This statement, while true, is not relevant to the nature of belief per se; what most people do is merely an indication of their upbringing and choices, and is not a fundamental limitation unless and until it can be shown to be so. I assert that I do in fact evaluate beliefs on a rational level, and it will be quite difficult to prove me wrong:)
Second, trhurler implies that any knowledge not born of experience can not be come about in a rational fashion.
Actually, you inferred this from what I said, rather than me implying it, and your inference was only partly correct. It is true that without experience, no knowledge is ever gained, but it is not true that all knowledge follows directly from experience or that any particular knowledge is necessarily tied to any particular experience. For instance, we cannot have a theory of numbers(ie, we could never even formulate one,) without having a logically prior concept of "more than one," and without any experience, we would have no such concept; we could not even be aware of ourselves as such, except by reference to the things we are apart from.

That attitude towards knowledge is fundamentally incompatible with empiricism, because it allows for a great deal of knowledge to derive from other knowledge with no added experience whatsoever.
For example, someone that has never consumed beer and has never witnessed someone consuming beer, the statement "beer can make you drunk" must be taken on faith no less than the statement "humanity will go on forever." I would contend that it is not irrational for an individual to take on faith, the statements of others that the individual believes are trustworthy.
This attempt to equate "trust" and "faith" fails because "trust" can be deserved, whereas "faith" is by definition acceptance without rational justification. "I believe it because I believe my friend" is not the same as "I believe it for no reason whatsoever" or "I believe it because it makes me happy" or "I believe it because it is true."

The rest of the post I'm replying to is, in essence, if I read it correctly, the assertion that morality is not subject to rational analysis. I disagree, but we probably disagree on what morality is, what the purpose of morality is, what a valid standard of morality can be, and so on, and that would be a lengthy and mostly off topic debate, I'm afraid.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
who asserted what? (3.33 / 3) (#19)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 07:18:04 PM EST

The rest of the post I'm replying to is, in essence, if I read it correctly, the assertion that morality is not subject to rational analysis.

You certainly read my previous post incorrectly. I never asserted that morality was not subject to rational analysis. My contention is simply that simple statements such as "drinking beer makes one drunk" or "humanity will go on forever" give absolutely no insight into moral, ethical, spiritual, or philosophical systems of belief.

Now if one says that "drinking beer makes one drunk and drunkeness is a good thing" then one is making a ethical/moral/philosophical/spiritual claim. Similiarly the other statement, if one expands it to "humanity will go on forever, therefore, it makes no difference if I kill this one person" one is making a value judgement.

[ Parent ]

Certainly! (3.33 / 3) (#21)
by trhurler on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 07:49:33 PM EST

My contention is simply that simple statements such as "drinking beer makes one drunk" or "humanity will go on forever" give absolutely no insight into moral, ethical, spiritual, or philosophical systems of belief.
We agree. However, I do not find that moral propositions are fundamentally different in any way from other propositions, and so when I need a proposition which might be true or false in order to illustrate an epistemlogical point, I feel free to choose any old proposition - generally, the simpler the better. My point with the beer example was merely to demonstrate the distinction between that which is subject to rational analysis and that which is not; without in any way disparaging anyone's beliefs, we can say that God is a faith-based notion, and you either believe or you don't, whereas the existence of my computer, delta any semantic games about the meanings of words such as "existence," is in fact subject to such analysis. Whether or not the particular notions in question are moral in nature is irrelevant to this distinction.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
where we disagree (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 08:54:47 AM EST

My point with the beer example was merely to demonstrate the distinction between that which is subject to rational analysis and that which is not; without in any way disparaging anyone's beliefs, we can say that God is a faith-based notion, and you either believe or you don't, whereas the existence of my computer, delta any semantic games about the meanings of words such as "existence," is in fact subject to such analysis.

Well, experience tells me that the existence of God is just as analyzable as the existence of trhurler's computer. Historically, many people have analyzed such statements with varying degrees of success from many different angles. Folks such as Anthony Flew and AJ Ayer will gladly tell you that the existence of God is a falsifiable proposition that has been falsified. Folks like Mortimer Adler and Richard Swinburne will gladly tell you that the existence of God is a verifiable proposition that has been verified. If such statements were inherently unable to be analyzed I would expect far more learned people to hold agnosticism instead of atheism or theism.

One place that trhurler and I apparently differ is the acceptance of the idea of empiricism and materialism. These ideas do have a good deal of thought put into them by their proponents, but I personally find them ultimately lacking. Materialism is essentially an unprovable proposition because it defines the supernatural out of existence. Empiricism is an excellent tool for scientific inquiry but is quite lacking when applied to other fields of thought.

Another point of disagreement appears to be the definition of faith. Some equate taking a position on faith to be the equivalent of taking a position with no rational basis. A statement that statements of faith are inherently irrational (as in not able to be analyzed or verified) implies to me such a belief. Such a use of the word faith is contrary to the usage of the word by many of the established religions. For example, within Christianity, the word 'faith' is more akin to the word 'trust' than notion that what is taken on faith is not able to be analyzed. In the Christian scriptures people have faith in God much the same way that a business owner that lets us run up a tab has faith in us. It is a relationship of trust based on past experience, not acceptance of an idea that has no rational basis.

In other words, I find it quite rational that someone who has no experience of anything supernatural to not have any faith while someone who has had an experience of the supernatural to have faith based on those experiences. In either case, those experiences are subject to rational examination.

[ Parent ]

More epistemology (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by trhurler on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 01:28:10 PM EST

Before I write anything else, let's get one thing straight about the word "faith." Your definition, which is quite common, is not wrong, but it is not the one I need in order to express the psychological and epistemological points I'm trying to make. Assume that I do understand what you mean by faith, and please just substitute whatever word works for you when you see me use the term:)
Well, experience tells me that the existence of God is just as analyzable as the existence of trhurler's computer. Historically, many people have analyzed such statements with varying degrees of success from many different angles. Folks such as Anthony Flew and AJ Ayer will gladly tell you that the existence of God is a falsifiable proposition that has been falsified. Folks like Mortimer Adler and Richard Swinburne will gladly tell you that the existence of God is a verifiable proposition that has been verified. If such statements were inherently unable to be analyzed I would expect far more learned people to hold agnosticism instead of atheism or theism.
There are several things to remember about this. One of them is that being famous for having written a book or something like that does not make you wise. Another is that a great many very good thinkers are agnostics, although they may or may not say so publicly. Then there's the reason I mentioned faith above instead of at the end of this: the people you mention all decided the matter long before they started reasoning on the subject. They all have faith in God - it is just that some of them have faith that there is no such thing. Once you've decided what the answer has to be, finding a line of reasoning that leads to it isn't hard. The only trick is, you have to make a few well hidden assumptions and not look to hard for contradictory material.

Personally, I'm somewhere between what most people call an agnostic and what most people call an atheist; I do not believe in God, but I do not have faith that there is none - most agnostics aren't as indifferent to the whole thing as I am, and most atheists are religious in their own way. I take this position, simply put, because the whole question "is there a God?" is one which I am not equipped to answer. It is like concerning myself with whether or not there are E. Coli bacteria in other galaxies; I have absolutely no way whatsoever to ever determine the answer, and any position I take is therefore a sham. The bacteria proposition -feels- unlikely to me, just as God does, but this is not helpful in evaluating it rationally.
One place that trhurler and I apparently differ is the acceptance of the idea of empiricism and materialism. These ideas do have a good deal of thought put into them by their proponents, but I personally find them ultimately lacking. Materialism is essentially an unprovable proposition because it defines the supernatural out of existence. Empiricism is an excellent tool for scientific inquiry but is quite lacking when applied to other fields of thought.
I do not define the supernatural out of existence; I simply do not find it in the world I live in. Whether it exists is an open, but to me utterly uninteresting question. As for empiricism, I already tried to distance myself from the formal school of thought that goes by the name, and proponents thereof would be glad of this, because I disagree with them at least as much as I do with you. The biggest point on which we differ was articulated rather ironicly by David Hume when he wrote that we should burn any book which did not contain either recordings of observations of the world around us or mathematical theory. The book in which he wrote this contained neither.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
corrections (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 02:33:52 PM EST

First I'd like to thank you for such an elequent reply. I found it very enlightening about the way you think. There are some assertions you make that I can not leave uncorrected.

the people you mention all decided the matter long before they started reasoning on the subject. They all have faith in God - it is just that some of them have faith that there is no such thing.

I can't speak for all of the philosophers I mentioned, but I know for certain that Mortimer Adler spent a very, very long time before making up his mind on the subject. AJ Ayer also did not start out as an atheist but was converted to his worldview as a young adult. If you read biographies of other people with rational reasons to believe in/against the supernatural, you will find many that started on one side of the equation and have moved to the other. C.S. Lewis passed through atheism on his road to theism. Tatiana Gordecheva was a second generation atheist before coming to believe in Christianity. Robert Funk grew up in a fundamentalist Church of which he was a true believer before going on to help found the Jesus Seminar to help propagate the scholarly opinion that the orthdox view that Jesus was God is a myth.

I think that your assertion that all proponents of the (non)existence of God have made up their minds beforehand is quite lacking. I'm sure that some people have done this. I've also seen a good deal of research where the researchers make up their minds ahead of time what they will find and only seek out evidence that supports their a priori thesis. Should I take that as evidence that all researchers do such?

I take this position, simply put, because the whole question "is there a God?" is one which I am not equipped to answer.

This is fine if that is as far as you take it. But to assume that because you are not equipped to answer the question that nobody is equipped to answer the question is quite flawed. I suspect that the bottom line is contained within your next statement.

I do not define the supernatural out of existence; I simply do not find it in the world I live in. Whether it exists is an open, but to me utterly uninteresting question.

I would not expect someone uninterested in the question of the existence of the supernatural to pursue investigation of claims of such to the point of being able to discuss rationally for or against. I have no problem with this viewpoint, I also try to avoid areas of discussion in which I am uninterested and uninformed. That doesn't mean that it is valid for me to claim that those areas of discussion outside of my interest lack any rational basis for analysis.

I will also apologize if I have offended you by equating your views with empiricism. There are many types of empiricism and the views you've stated about matters concerning the supernatural being irrational (as in being unable to be rationally spoken of one way or the other) is a trait shared by more than one type of empiricism. Your assertions that what can not be validated by experience can not be spoken of in a rational manner implies acceptance of the empiricist viewpoint that was the basis for the logical positivist movement.

Thanks for the reasonable discussion.

[ Parent ]

You got me, sort of:) (3.50 / 2) (#33)
by trhurler on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 03:11:09 PM EST

I think that your assertion that all proponents of the (non)existence of God have made up their minds beforehand is quite lacking.
I probably overstated the case, but I have never read an argument of that kind that didn't contain gaping logical errors, and I can't account for them in any other way, given that these are apparently intelligent people who spent considerable time writing books.
That doesn't mean that it is valid for me to claim that those areas of discussion outside of my interest lack any rational basis for analysis.
Agreed. The reason I say that there is no basis for any rational analysis of this subject is a bit more subtle. You have to consider -why- I find the subject uninteresting. Go back to my E Coli example. Not only can't I do this, but you can't either, and neither can anyone else, probably in our lifetimes and for quite a few after, and possibly ever. This isn't merely an unfit question for -me.- Now, unless you can convince me that rational analysis of something which is claimed to behave without respect for the rules of reason is even possible or else convince me that we have some faculty other than reason by which to analyze things, I am convinced that we are not equipped to investigate such a phenomenon even if it did exist. The reason we're so successful is that the universe DOES make sense - it does "follow the rules." If there are things that don't, fine, and if not, whatever, but we certainly are not going to understand them.
Your assertions that what can not be validated by experience can not be spoken of in a rational manner implies acceptance of the empiricist viewpoint that was the basis for the logical positivist movement.
The logical positivists were a ridiculous crew; even their own founders agreed on that before they were done. A few posts back, I did clarify my position here: there is much valid knowledge that does not directly depend on experience, but without some experience, there is no knowledge. I used math as an example; given a few basics you can figure out an awful lot without ever leaving a chalkboard. However, those basics include concepts like unity, multiplicity, and so on which are logically prior to just about every field of human endeavor; these are learned by experience, and without that experience, we would never even have a notion of ourselves as subjects perceiving objects, much less a notion of "more than one" on which to base all that math.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
so it comes down to faith (in your definition) (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 09:07:04 AM EST

The reason I say that there is no basis for any rational analysis of this subject is a bit more subtle. You have to consider -why- I find the subject uninteresting. Go back to my E Coli example. Not only can't I do this, but you can't either, and neither can anyone else, probably in our life

The assertion that no one can experience the supernatural in any manner meaningful enough to enable rational analysis is entirely based on faith (using your definition of faith). As such, it is inconsistant for you to use it as a rational reason to say that matters of faith (again using your definition) are inherently irrational.

I have never read an argument of that kind [an apology for or against the existence of God] that didn't contain gaping logical errors.

I wonder which books you have read. Obviously good philosophers are hard to come by. If we apply Sturgeon's law to apologetic writings, we know ahead of time that most of them won't be worth the paper they are printed on. (As a side note I find it quite possible that Sturgeon was overly conservative by an order of magnitude.) I also wonder how many of the gaping logical errors are simply presuppositions that you are not willing to make. These aren't technically logical errors, but if your don't agree with them, obviously you will not consider the conclusion of the logical construct to be valid. Logic only settles disputes when opposed sides of a debate agree on all of the premises.

[ Parent ]

Faith is one thing I don't have:) (none / 0) (#35)
by trhurler on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 12:35:08 PM EST

The assertion that no one can experience the supernatural in any manner meaningful enough to enable rational analysis
This assertion is quite well supported by a simple fact that either I did not clarify sufficiently or you chose not to consider: the supernatural, by definition, is that which does not follow the rules; it is illogical, it can do things that are "impossible," and so on. If it cannot, then it is not supernatural. However, our power to understand is our minds; we are not equipped to deal with things which are inherently self-contradictory and so on. Therefore, even if you had experience of the supernatural, this would be nothing but a confusing nightmare of incomprehensibility. This does not mean that believers in such things are dishonest, or even mistaken in the usual sense of that term: it is not a mistake to accept what you truly believe. However, it does mean that there is a contradiction in their beliefs: they are saying they have an understanding of that which is incomprehensible.
Logic only settles disputes when opposed sides of a debate agree on all of the premises.
My philosophical positions are an unbroken set of logical chains from a set of premises which cannot be disagreed with. Experience with such premises, such as the basic rule of logic(the law of non-contradiction,) tends to make spotting unsupported claims rather easy, and the arguments we're talking about are full of them, when they're not just outright erroneous. The problem is, it doesn't matter whether you and I agree on a premise or not; if the premise is unjustified, then the conclusion is too, and even if we grant your supposition that the errors are actually differences of premise, these arguments rarely even identify all their premises, much less seek to justify them.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
You faith is showing still (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 01:43:26 PM EST

This assertion is quite well supported by a simple fact that either I did not clarify sufficiently or you chose not to consider: the supernatural, by definition, is that which does not follow the rules; it is illogical, it can do things that are "impossible," and so on.

This definition of the supernatural is a presupposition of materialism. There is no rational or experiential basis for it. Like I mentioned before, one of the failings of a materialist outlook is that it defines the supernatural out of existance. The trouble is that by defining the supernatural as a violation of the laws of nature is that it makes it impossible to prove any supernatural event has occurred. Once one defines the supernatural as illogical, allegedly supernatural events can only be designated as unexplainable. As I mentioned, this comes down to faith (by your definition) in a materialistic worldview. To state that the supernatural realm is inexperiencable is a statement of faith (by your definition) just as much as the opposite statement (that the the supernatural realm is exeriencable).

The problem is, it doesn't matter whether you and I agree on a premise or not; if the premise is unjustified, then the conclusion is too, and even if we grant your supposition that the errors are actually differences of premise, these arguments rarely even identify all their premises, much less seek to justify them.

This confirms my suspicion that you have not read many apologetic works by serious philosophers on one side of the equation or the other. Folks like Alvin Plantinga (on the theist side) and Anthony Flew (on the atheist side) do a very good job of analyzing their premises in depth. Both undertake to not only identify, but to justify their premises. Now if one finds their justifications less than convincing, that doesn't mean that their attempts were irrational, only that one does find them cogent.

Logic is not infallible, it is only a tool. Its like the old programming acronym GIGO. Logic does not define premises, it only draws out the conclusions contained within the premises.

[ Parent ]

Supernatural (none / 0) (#37)
by trhurler on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 03:31:22 PM EST

The original claim I made, which is that you cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, where God is taken to mean the God most people think of when the term is used, regardless of the particulars of any one religion, and that claim is correct, because that God is not bound by logical rules. If you want to play semantic games with the meaning of supernatural, so be it, but you cannot claim that God with a capital G as envisioned by the people who believe in such a being is bound by the rules of logic, and therefore, logic cannot be used to prove or disprove the existence of God.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Its not a semantic game (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 04:09:18 PM EST

The original claim I made, which is that you cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, where God is taken to mean the God most people think of when the term is used, regardless of the particulars of any one religion, and that claim is correct, because that God is not bound by logical rules.

(1) Many theologians from many different faiths have stated that God is bound by logical rules. I'm not familiar with the reasoning behind all possible claims for such, but more than one theist has opined as an epistemological rationalist that logic works because it is a universal truth implanted in our minds by deity who is in essence pure Truth. This claim implies that logic only works because it is a reflection of the nature of God. If such is the case, then God is limited by the bounds of logic. I'm not keen on arguing the truth of this particular view, but it is but one example of the many, many statements made by people that believe that God is bound by logic. Some theologians have gone so far as to define God's omniopotence as the ability to do anything that is not logically contradictory.

(2) What you state here is not the original claim you made. Your original claims was this:

The reason I mention this is that the former, regardless of whether a deity or other typical spiritual flavoring is involved, has the essence of religion in that it cannot be rationally examined, but rather only either accepted, rejected, or abstained from. The latter, on the other hand, can and should be examined closely and treated appropriately. This makes some belief systems justifiable, and others not justifiable. Of course, this lack of justifiability is no argument against such a belief system to someone who believes in it, because by definition, arguments are useless against or for such a belief system.

This is what read as your position from my reading of your prior statement:

(1) religious claims (whether or not a deity is involved) can not be rationally examined.

(2) the distinction between religious claims and non-relgious claims is that non-religious claims can be verified through experience (empiracly) or through reason (mathematically)

Given that your original example of a religious claim was that "humanity will go on forever" I find it very difficult to swallow that you intended only to claim that knowledge of God was impossible.

The problem I have with this view is that the statement that religious claims can not be experienced or reasoned to is an article of faith (using your definition), meaning that it can be used to support a rational argument, meaning that it can not be used to build a justifiable world view.

To get out of this quandry, you must both demonstrate that all claims by people who claim experience of the supernatural are delusional or misconstruations of natural phenomena and disprove all attempts to argue for or against the existence of any sort of supernatural phenomena.

Thus far in this dialogue you have asserted that you have not experienced any supernatural phenomena. If you have reasons I am unaware of that allows you to extrapolate your experience to my experience, please enlighten me. But it seems to me that such an argument could only be fallacious. It would be akin to me stating that because I have not been able to get Windows NT to stay stable past fourteen days of uptime, then no one can.

Lastly, the definition of the supernatural is not merely a semantic game. If one goes with the materialistic definition of the supernatural, then one is begging the questions of whether or not such a realm exists and if it exists if it can interact with the material realm. In other words, the statement that the supernatural is unknowable is a statement that assumes knowledge of the quality of the existence of the supernatural. As such it is a profession of faith (by your definition) just as much as the statement that the supernatural does (or does not) exist.

[ Parent ]

Hmm... (none / 0) (#39)
by trhurler on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 05:42:57 PM EST

Many theologians from many different faiths have stated that God is bound by logical rules.
Ok, but in this case they are asserting that miracles as defined by most religions simply don't happen, and that even God is bound in such ways that some things are impossible. That's not a typical view of God, even if some scholars do hold it; if you mean to advocate it, you need to specifically say so, rather than just launching into arguments about God and taking your position as a given:)
What you state here is not the original claim you made.
Upon closer inspection, it appears that I was mistaken here. You are correct. I'll amend my position as follows: some religious propositions are unverifiable. The existence of God as most people conceive of God is one of them. A larger class of faith-based(my definition of faith for this purpose,) propositions completely encompasses these religious propositions and also includes things like my E Coli example. My conviction is that in cases such as these, the proper attitude is that the question is ludicrous unless and until it can be examined rationally.

Yes, you can attempt to argue about the existence of a very limited deity, but what you have really done at that point is to change the argument entirely. I'm not out to sink your personal beliefs, and if they involve a God, regardless of whether this is the commonly held one or some odd variant thereof or whatever, so be it; the point I really care about is that there are a lot of people who, in religion and other matters, hold a great deal of positions which cannot be rationally examined, and that I believe this to be a mistake.

What you term "supernatural," for the argument about semantics and whether this is a semantic issue or not, I term "odd but natural." I am not trying to define it out of existence, but rather renaming it to fit the derivation of the word more closely. As it happens, I don't believe in it, but at least claims about it can be investigated, whereas claims about what I call the supernatural are all absurd. Since we're talking about the same thing and merely using different terms, I'm pretty sure it is in fact a semantic difference, but there's other disagreement on the subject than on terms, I'm sure.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
question begging and consistancy (none / 0) (#40)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 09:10:05 PM EST

me:
Many theologians from many different faiths have stated that God is bound by logical rules.
trhurler:
Ok, but in this case they are asserting that miracles as defined by most religions simply don't happen, and that even God is bound in such ways that some things are impossible.

bzzt. wrong answer.

To label miracles as violations of nature begs the question of whether or not materialism is the case. Materialism is unverifiable on its own merits. It takes on faith (by your definition) or as axiomatic that the supernatural does not exist or is unknowable.

One way to think of this is to imagine a two dimensional plane that is populated by people whose senses only extend in two dimensions (not counting time as a dimension). Now if the universe that the plane exists in contains three dimensional objects and they intersect the plane, the flatlanders will only be able to experience the three dimensional objects in two dimension. These three dimensional objects might very well break the "laws of nature" according to two dimensional physics. This doesn't mean that the three dimensional objects are breaking the laws of nature, only that the flatlanders do not perceive all that there is.

Similarly, if there is a supernatural realm that intersects with our material realm, it does not of necessity break any of the laws of nature, but it does break our understanding of said laws.

But honestly, the bottom line in all of this is that the statment "certain types of religious claims are in essence unverifiable" is itself a religious statement. If religious claims were truly unverifiable, then the claim that knowledge of religious statements is unverifiable is itself unverifiable.

You can continue to make that claim all you want and it will not disturb me one bit. I do, however, expect consistency. If knowledge of the supernatural can not be used as the rational basis for discussion, then neither can the claim that knowledge of the supernatural can not be used for rational discussion be used for rational discussion.

Its been a pleasant discussion.

-l

[ Parent ]

Have you thought about what it'd mean... (none / 0) (#41)
by trhurler on Fri Dec 01, 2000 at 11:49:08 AM EST

if the flatland model applied? What you're saying is, reality isn't unknowable, it is just... unknowable. Even if your flatland model was correct, all it would mean is that there was in fact a God capable of doing things which defy our ability to reason, and which therefore, even if God behaved logically, we could not possibly understand. What we cannot understand, we cannot reason about, so this model, while it technically makes my prior argument invalid, only requires a minor modification to it in order to keep it going, and this is to recognize that the perception of the event is every bit as important to comprehension as is the act of reasoning.

I'll close by saying that in fact, ALL systems of propositions contain unverifiable truths, unless you increase the size of your axiomatic set without bounds(see Godel, whose name cannot be rendered properly using characters available to me:) Therefore, even if you do not accept my prior reasons, it is in fact true that there are unverifiable religious propositions, because we cannot possibly consider an axiomatic set of infinite size.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
on flatlanders comprehending past 2 dimensions (none / 0) (#42)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Dec 01, 2000 at 12:23:55 PM EST

if the flatland model applied? What you're saying is, reality isn't unknowable, it is just... unknowable. Even if your flatland model was correct, all it would mean is that there was in fact a God capable of doing things which defy our ability to reason, and which therefore, even if God behaved logically, we could not possibly understand.

This assumes that any 3d persons are not interested in interacting with flatland in a way that flatlanders can comprehend. If such were the case, then, yes, there would be know way to know anything meaniningful about the 3d realm. However, if the inhabitants of the 3d realm chose to communicate with the inhabitants of flatland, it seems that flatlanders could acquire a good deal of knowledge about the third dimension. It is also possible that with help from the inhabitants of the 3d realm, that flatlanders could experience the third dimension. Strictly speaking, it also possible that the flatlanders could learn a good deal about the 3d realm by the chance interactions between the realms.

I'll close by saying that in fact, ALL systems of propositions contain unverifiable truths.

In other words, what you are saying is that there is no system that does not take faith (by your definition) to believe and systems such as mathematics and scientific inquiry are just as irrational as other systems that also require faith (by your definition) to believe, such as theology and religion. This concluding statement of yours seems to rebutt your implied assertion, that "unverifiable" propositions have no business within a logically coherent train of reason, that certain propositions are unprovable and are different in kind from other propositions that can be proved and as such are unsuitable for rational dialogue. If such was the case, we could not even rationally speak of mathematics or physics because these systems are founded on the same type of "unprovable" assertions that religion, philosophy, ethics, morality, and theology are founded on.

see Godel, whose name cannot be rendered properly using characters available to me

Surely you mean Kurt Gödel whose name you do not care to take the time to learn how to render properly? ;)

[ Parent ]

Mmm... flat... (none / 0) (#43)
by trhurler on Fri Dec 01, 2000 at 01:16:09 PM EST

This assumes that any 3d persons are not interested in interacting with flatland in a way that flatlanders can comprehend.
It is not at all clear that the 3d persons would know how to interact in a useful way with flatlanders; one thing people tend to forget about the flatland model is that "sight" in 2d would have to be quite fundamentally different from sight in 3d, just as sight in 4d would be, if such is even possible(which I have NO desire to get into a discussion of.) It is also not at all clear what someone living in a 3d world would have as a motive for such action; this interaction, at very least, would be difficult, and the benefits are not at all apparent for anyone BUT the flatlanders. However, I will grant that yes, it is possible.

That said, in thousands of years, the evidence available to support such a hypothesis is both so scarce and so self-contradictory that it is apparent that if such a being or such beings wish to communicate with us, they are either stupid, incompetent, or restrained in some way. It is a much better guess, speaking purely in rough probabilistic terms, that it simply has not happened, and that people are employing a combination of wishful thinking and vivid imagination along with the occasional dose of hallucinogens(ever think about how common these are in many religions?:) to create the illusion for themselves that there is a higher power of some kind taking care of them.
In other words, what you are saying is that there is no system that does not take faith (by your definition) to believe and systems such as mathematics and scientific inquiry are just as irrational as other systems that also require faith (by your definition) to believe, such as theology and religion.
Actually, no. I am saying that there may well be verifiable (or verifiably false, who knows?) propositions of religion, just as there are any other sort, but that this does not make any particular religious proposition verifiable. It could well be that some variant of the God proposition can be determined, but it is as likely that the being God would have to become in order to create this state of affairs is not the being which you will invoke in the minds of most worshippers when you use that name.
Surely you mean Kurt Gödel whose name you do not care to take the time to learn how to render properly? ;)
This is true in a way you probably did not imagine at the time. I'm a weirdo in this sense: I'm perfectly willing(and paid) to delve around in the guts of computer programming, doing C on unix systems for a living, but my opinion of things like character sets is that until using them becomes easy enough that I don't have to waste time memorizing or looking up in tables or learning silly emacs-style character shift rules, the cost to me in time and mental effort is greater than the benefit gained, especially since I will only ever be using them to get umlauts and so on, which generally are more useful in determining how to pronounce a word than in determining its meaning(as you so aptly demonstrated:) I have a similar viewpoint on a great many issues in computing; when they push me out of what I already know, that's fine, but since I can only meaningfully deal with so much complexity at one time, there had better be a good reason for them. This, incidentally, is what I THINK the reason is that people are so reluctant to learn new things in the computer field in general; they don't see the benefits upfront. I generally do at least try to find out what those benefits are before deciding to be lazy, but there certainly are things on which I then decide just that.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Religion. (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by Alarmist on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 03:29:23 PM EST

Therefore, my working definition of a religion is any system of beliefs that causes an individual to modify their behavior according to philosophical, ethical, moral, and/or spiritual beliefs.

This is indeed quite comprehensive, though I won't carry it to the ham salad sandwich extreme.

If we adopt your definition of religion, then I have no qualms with your statement: arguments for or against euthanasia inherit a religious quality because they are considerations of life and what humans can or ought to do with it.

If, on the other hand, we adopt my definition of religion, then I can't agree with the statement because there is nothing involving gods or higher powers of any sort in discussing the matter of euthanasia. Instead, the matter is more of a philosophical or ethical one: what is right for a human to do with its life? Can a human terminate its life at will, or must it live until it dies through other means? Is it wrong to end one's own life? If so, why?

This is a problem I've given a fair amount of thought to, from both sides of the equation. I believe that ultimately, humans who have been denied what I consider to be the most basic right (the right to live or die as they choose) have been denied control over part of what makes us human: our finiteness. To say that a person doesn't have the right to end their own life is to deny that person the ability to stand and live on their own or die as they please. Since I am philosophically of a somewhat libertarian bent, this strikes me as abhorrent. I know that I personally would rather die quickly than be imprisoned in pain for what seems to be the rest of my life. Better to end it fast and get it over with, before the real suffering begins. Since I think this way, and since I know that there are conditions which last until death and which involve a great deal of pain, I cannot in good conscience deny anyone the right to die.

What do you think?


[ Parent ]

I think I pretty much agree with you (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 07:28:19 PM EST

While I am philosophically opposed to libertarianism, I think that in the final analysis I agree with your view on euthanasia. Personally, I believe that killing oneself will always be the greater of two evils in the occasion of chronic, incurable, terminal illness. But I also do not believe that I have the right to force someone to live against their will.

I also contend that in this issue (and many other issues, such as the abortion issue) that many of the opponents of euthanasia would do better to put their energies into volunteering for hospice or visiting people in nursing homes than opposing the legalization of voluntary euthanasia. Losing the will to live is the problem and it will exist whether or not voluntary euthanasia is legal. If one is opposed to euthanasian, then, the way to constructively work against euthanasia is to work toward making the people who no longer want to live find a reason to carry on.

[ Parent ]

Anti-euthanasia/Anti-abortion. (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by Alarmist on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 10:56:25 AM EST

Pointless aside: I am amused (mostly because I am sick) by the fact that the two major factions in the abortion debate both prefix themselves with "pro-", as in "pro-choice" or "pro-life." This makes it look as if the two are mutually exclusive. Still, our culture seems to deal with the "pro-" prefix better than with the "anti-" prefix. Anyway....

Personally, I believe that killing oneself will always be the greater of two evils in the occasion of chronic, incurable, terminal illness. But I also do not believe that I have the right to force someone to live against their will.

I understand your point of view; for a long time, I held it myself. I'm glad, though, that you agree with me that this is not for us to decide, but for the individual in that cirumstance to decide. I desperately wish that more people thought that way--a great deal of injustice and violence has been done in the name of ostensibly helping the victimized.

I think it would help if people realized that giving other people the choice to do with themselves what they please is not tantamount to lawlessness, nor is it an invitation to unethical behavior. On the contrary, the freedom granted by such a circumstance is shackled to the fact that you have to pay for your consequences in one way or another. People who elect to be euthanized (or, more bluntly, to kill themselves) will never get to see the sun rise again, or be stricken with wonder at the beauty of nature, or enjoy time spent with family and friends. It seems a small price to pay, but for some it is too steep, and I don't blame them.

I also contend that in this issue (and many other issues, such as the abortion issue) that many of the opponents of euthanasia would do better to put their energies into volunteering for hospice or visiting people in nursing homes than opposing the legalization of voluntary euthanasia.

Another instance where you and I agree. Too often, it seems that the sort of people who push for this kind of legislation are the same sort of people who do it not for their own sakes, but "to protect other people." Please. Prohibitionary laws frequently are passed in this guise. To steal a few lines, nobody ever says "Please pass this law to protect me from myself." They always say, "Pass this law to protect somebody else." (Just got finished reading Heinlein again.)

I don't like the implied assumption in many of our laws that I am an irresponsible ignoramus who would lop his fingers off with a lawnmower or play in traffic if someone wasn't constantly watching out for me. I think that that kind of thinking has caused a great deal of harm and is a major contributor to this "I'm not guilty, I'm a victim" society that we in the United States seem to be living in today. If we treat adults as adults instead of as children, then I think they'll start to act that way.

I'm rambling again.

Losing the will to live is the problem and it will exist whether or not voluntary euthanasia is legal.

True. This is the case also with abortion and drug abuse: both will exist regardless of the legality of those actions, and it is probably better to deal with them in a manner that addresses the cause rather than one that addresses the result.


[ Parent ]

Oh dear... (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by whatnotever on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 01:22:01 PM EST

As I was posting, I was thinking this might happen. Yes, drawing lines between, amongst, and around religion, spirituality, morality, ethics, etc. is practically impossible (heh, *nothing* is truly impossible :-).

I was only trying to gain some insight (but not deep insight) into the issue, so let me attempt to simplify the original question:
Are there any arguments against euthanasia other than "Euthanasia is killing a human being, and killing a human being is wrong, thus euthanasia is wrong." ?

[ Parent ]
getting past the straw arguments (5.00 / 4) (#13)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 02:08:12 PM EST

All of the arguments I have seen against euthanasia are variants of the "it is wrong to kill' argument. However, I don't think I've ever heard anyone actually make the over-simplified argument that killing is wrong, euthanasia is killing and therefore wrong except for proponents of euthanasia attempting to burn down a strawman. I'm not attempting to critique any of these arguments and I do not necessarily believe in any of them, I'm simply pointing out how they differ from the simplified "killing is wrong" argument.

Slippery slope argument #1, voluntary euthanasia leads to involuntary euthanasia.
This argument is simply that if euthanasia is legalized families and doctors will unduly pressure the possible euthanasia subject to choose termination. The subject not wanting to be burdensome to loved ones and weakened by the chronic medical condition assents to euthanasia, although that is not what the subject really wants.

Slippery slope argument #2, euthanasia cheapens life
This argument is as procedures such as euthanasia are legalized, human life loses some of its value in the eyes of society and therefore society in general will be more prone to engage in activities that take human life (such as murder).

Slippery slope argument #3, euthanasia leads to murder
This argument is that if euthanasia is allowable as a choice for people with legal power of attorney or guardianship for an incapacitated person, the guardian or power of attorney will be able to end the lives of subjects that should not be ended.

Slippery slope argument #4, legalized euthanasia of any sort will broaden in scope
This argument is that if chronically ill people are euthanized today, then those not 'fit' will be euthanized tomorrow and eventually only those who are "perfect" according to the ruling elite will not be euthanized.

Religous argument #1, who lives and who dies is in the hands of the deity
This argument is that it is not for humanity to decide when any given person dies, but for the creator of life to decide when to take back life. This argument comes in many shades. Some of its proponents use a variant of this argument to say that all ill people should receive all possible medical treatment to avoid death. Others allow for "non code" or "no treatment" guidelines and simply state that only active euthanasia is taking matters into one's own hands.

Guilt by association argument #1, Adolf Hitler was a big fan of euthanasia.
It had to be said. ;)

As one can tell, all of the arguments against euthanasia use the sanctity of life as one of the premises. None, however, are of the simple "killing is wrong and therefore euthanasia is wrong" variety. People who espoused such a straw argument would also have to argue that capital punishment, war, and abortion are all unequivocally wrong in order to be consistant.

Where do I sit on the issue? I'm not entirely certain. On the one hand, I do think that killing another human is always wrong. (I will concede that at times killing another human may be less wrong than the alternatives, provided we keep in mind that the lesser of two evils is still evil.) On the other hand, I'm not certain that I have the right to prevent someone who wants to kill his or her self from doing so. I'm also not convinced that any potential "good" brought into the picture through legal euthanasia would not be outweighted by the potential "harm."

If you want more anti-euthanasia arguments, I'm sure that google will provide.

[ Parent ]

If they do not enforce the law... (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by theR on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 12:44:34 PM EST

If the current law that makes it illegal to perform Euthanasia is not enforced then it is logical to make it legal. If it is legal, they can more easily enforce the criteria and safeguards because physicians will no longer have to be scared when documenting and performing Euthanasia.

From a moral standpoint, I think Euthanasia is acceptable as long as the person that wants it and the doctors see no alternative. Some people may argue against Euthanasia for many reasons, including religion and upbringing. If you don't believe Euthanasia is moral, then don't do it, but I don't see how anyone can justify not giving a terminally ill, chronically suffering person that choice to make.

They found that patients had been helped to die in three main ways: through the administration of opium-based painkillers, by withholding treatment that could have prolonged life, and by the administration of lethal drugs.

I know this happens in the US, and I believe it happens in other countries, as well. Doctors here are supposed to do everything they can to keep the patient alive. It has been shown that many of them go to extreme lengths to keep patients alive, even when the patient has a Do Not Resuscitate order.(i.e. the patient has specifically requested that no unusual lengths should be gone to in order to keep the patient alive.) This is legal in the US. On the other hand, I have heard (anecdotally) that there are also many doctors that will help a patient die if the doctor sees it as a reasonable request. To me, the second way listed in the quote seems closer to a DNR order than Euthanasia, but who knows when it comes to legal definitions.

For some people, Euthanasia is a reasonable alternative. The thing that bothers be the most about Euthanasia being illegal is that it takes an option out of the hands of the people who will usually know the most about it, the doctors, and takes the option away from the people that know the most about the specific situation, the patient and family.



Commentary from a med student (4.50 / 4) (#10)
by Alik on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 01:18:32 PM EST

Over here in the US, the AMA (which is as close to a medical ethics standard-setter as we have) claims that it is inappropriate for a physician to be involved in any kind of execution, euthanasia, or assisted suicide, as it is "fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer". Just so you know what the guys who get paid to be ethical say.

Speaking as someone who's theoretically going to be a professional healer, that's bullshit. Yes, there are slippery-slope issues, and this thing is going to have to be watched like a hawk lest it turn into something like the death-penalty mess the US has now. One of the many things they've been drumming into my head for the past year has been the fact that death is not the doctor's enemy; suffering is the enemy. If death is being welcomed and desired, then hastening it lessens suffering.

Then again, this is America, and we're a lot more into killing and dying than Europe. Perhaps this is one of those things that works there but not here. Still, it looks like we'll see at least assisted suicide in more than one state within a decade or so, and that should be an interesting trial to see if it would work nationally. (That's one of the nice things with the US; you can use the states as minature experimental grounds for various policies, because they've got decent autonomy and big piles of money.)


It's interesting (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by cp on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 06:26:07 PM EST

Then again, this is America, and we're a lot more into killing and dying than Europe. Perhaps this is one of those things that works there but not here.

In the traditional conception of laws against suicide, suicide is a crime against the state because your life belongs to the king, and it is unlawful to kill one of the king's subjects. By one of those weird quirks of politics, we find (ourselves) in the US, a nation fundamentally constitutionally opposed to having a monarchical king, some of the fiercest anti-suicide laws in the world.

(If you want an interesting read on US jurisprudence and euthenasia, then I reccomend Ronald Dworkin's amicus brief in Vacco v. Quill a few years ago.)

Good luck on your medschool studies. We need more sensible physicians like you. ;-)

[ Parent ]
God, not the king (3.00 / 3) (#23)
by Paul Johnson on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 08:44:48 AM EST

I gather the prohibition against suicide actually has a more religious background.

According to Christian dogma, you can only be "saved" (go to Heaven) if you are absolved of your sins when you die. But you can't avoid sinning because you are only human. So you might get absolution, and ten minutes later think lustful thoughts about a passing young man/woman/dog, thereby sinning and putting you back where you started. If you were sufficiently distracted and unlucky to get run over by a passing cart then you would not be in a state of grace when you died, and so would go straight to Hell, do not pass the Pearly Gates, do not collect Eternal Bliss.

This is what is behind the Last Rites. The trick to greasing your way into Heaven is to figure out when you are going to die, and then have a priest on hand to grant absolution a few seconds beforehand.

However in the first century AD life and death were pretty random. So some of the more enthusiastic converts to Christianity reasoned that the only way they could reliably predict their death was to commit suicide. So they went to a priest, gained absolution, and then quickly jumped off the nearest cliff before they had time to sin again.

This left the early church with a problem. First, mass suicides are bad PR, and secondly it left them with a major shortage of True Believers to go out and Spread The Word. They solved the problem by redefining suicide as a sin, thereby closing the loophole.

We're still stuck with this notion.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Interesting theory (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 09:03:55 AM EST

However in the first century AD life and death were pretty random. So some of the more enthusiastic converts to Christianity reasoned that the only way they could reliably predict their death was to commit suicide. So they went to a priest, gained absolution, and then quickly jumped off the nearest cliff before they had time to sin again.

This left the early church with a problem. First, mass suicides are bad PR, and secondly it left them with a major shortage of True Believers to go out and Spread The Word. They solved the problem by redefining suicide as a sin, thereby closing the loophole.

Your theory is interesting, but having read much of ancient history, I do not recall any such phenomena of a high rate of suicide among recent converts to the Christian religion. Do you have any references that I could follow up on?

In any case, I'm pretty certain that a dim view of suicide predates Christianity. For example, at the mass suicide at Massadah, the Jewish men drew lots so that only one man would have to commit the unforgivable sin of suicide. Granted the seige at Massadah took place after the time of Christ, but I think it would be pretty hard to argue that the Jews at Massadah were heavily influenced by Christian teaching. It seems far more likely to be the other way around that the Christian prohibition against suicide is simply a continuation of the Jewish prohibition against suicide.

[ Parent ]

It seems to have been two cults in particular (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by Paul Johnson on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 11:48:35 AM EST

The Donatists and the Circumcellions. For a detailed history, see this page. Warning: its quite long, and more concerned with the political and theological history of the cults than with suicide.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

do I understand your position correctly? (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 12:11:14 PM EST

I read your position as being that the fourth century Donatist and Curcumcellion movements caused mass suicicide of Christians in the first century.

Paul Johnson:

However in the first century AD life and death were pretty random. So some of the more enthusiastic converts to Christianity reasoned that the only way they could reliably predict their death was to commit suicide. So they went to a priest, gained absolution, and then quickly jumped off the nearest cliff before they had time to sin again.

The Catholic Encylapedia:

The Donatist schism in Africa began in 311 and flourished just one hundred years, until the conference at Carthage in 411, after which its importance waned.

They [The Curcumcellions] first appeared about 317 (Tillemont, Mém., VI, 96), and claimed that they were champions of Christ, fighting with the sword of Israel.

It seems to me that in your earlier post you were attempting to take an abherent teaching of a small sect of a schismatic group and present it as something that was endemic to all of early Christianity.

[ Parent ]

Being saved (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by spiralx on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 09:15:56 AM EST

According to Christian dogma, you can only be "saved" (go to Heaven) if you are absolved of your sins when you die.

Surely Christian belief is that the sole criteria for being saved is accepting Jesus Christ as your saviour. Whatever actions you do during life are forgiven...

Of course I could be wrong. Christian beliefs aren't my strong point :)

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Christian beliefs (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 10:31:01 AM EST

Surely Christian belief is that the sole criteria for being saved is accepting Jesus Christ as your saviour. Whatever actions you do during life are forgiven.

This formulation of salvation was unknown to Christianity until the sixteenth century and the theories of the reformers such as Jean Calvin and Martin Luther.

It was a common practice for early Christians to delay baptism until their death bed because many believed that if a Christian committed a serious sin after baptism, there would be no additional forgiveness. Two early heretical sects, the Montanists and the Donatists, carried this view to an extreme. This view was also repeatedly condemned at many early Church councils and synods.

Historically, the most prevelant view on salvation is that acceptance of Jesus brings forgiveness, but not inevitably so. Just as a married man or woman couple can turn his or her back on his or her spouse and get a divorce, a Christian can turn their back on God and lose his or her salvation.

[ Parent ]

Where did I put my passport? (2.00 / 4) (#17)
by jabber on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 04:49:45 PM EST

So there is a this tiny little country where you can legally :
* go to a hash bar and get stoned in a public place
* pick up a 16 year old for the night via window shopping
* get yourself killed when life hurts too much

Interesting combination of liberties. Coincidence? I wonder how long it will take to declare an itch conscience as a justifiable cause for suicide.

FWIW, I have no problem with any of the above points. Except the last one, I'd likely not indulge, but I don't care if someone else does (consent assumed). Just trying it in a different perspective, that's all.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

The Netherlands (2.50 / 2) (#22)
by moshez on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 02:35:17 AM EST

Is truly a wonderful place. I fell in love with it when I visited Amsterdam for a week. I was amazed by the tolerance the Dutch show: everywhere, to everyone. I'm not surprised, but I am delighted: the Dutch goverment just decided to mess with people's decisions a bit less. Admirable!

[T]he k5 troll HOWTO has been updated ... This update is dedicated to moshez, and other bitter anti-trolls.
Dutch to legalise euthanasia | 43 comments (43 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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