Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Right to Die

Given the recent noise made about the Federal government interfering with an Oregon law as well as posts such as this I decided to weigh in on this subject.

The two situations above aren't exactly the same but the underlying principle is. Does someone have the right to make a choice that will be harmful or fatal to themselves? There are those who say that we must intervene when someone does this even if only "for their own good." They would say that we have a moral obligation to step in and prevent these people from "acting on impulse" or when "not in their right mind." While I can understand why people would feel that way it is still the incorrect response. The arguments they'd put forth for getting involved, when all is said and done, boil down to the idea that the person intervening knows better. This is, far and away, the most arrogant, self-serving pile of garbage I've ever heard. Our country is based on the idea of individual liberty. On the principle that every person is free to make choices for themselves and are responsible for the consequences of those choices. The moment we started letting the government get involved "for our own good" we began to see the erosion of that ideal.

The Feds extortion(and that's what it is) of doctor's in Oregon is just one more example of how far we've wandered from the Dream that is America. A bit of background for ya: Oregon has passed a law, twice now, that allows doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medications to terminally ill patients that request it. The doctor does not, and in fact cannot, administer the drugs themselves. All they can do is prescribe and, typically, observe in the home when the patient decides the time is right. The Federal government has decided to threaten the doctors since they can't do anything about the actual law itself. They have stated that they will revoke licenses and consider fines or criminal prosecution for any doctor who prescribes such medicine. So to be perfectly clear: the voters of Oregon have passed a law allowing this activity. The Federal government cannot overrule the states own law in this case and has decided to intervene in a dirty, underhanded fashion. Nice to see our elected officials hard at work.

The second of the two situations is similar only in that the person involved has decide that he will no longer pay massive medical bills to artificially prolong his time on this earth. His feeling appears to be that when it's his time there's no Get Out of Jail Free card that will grant him any extra time. He's decided to face this on his own terms and leave something behind for his children other than piles of medical bills. This would appear to be a clear-cut case of someone making a choice for themselves that no one can say anything about. Unfortunately this logic seems too much for some to grasp.

Both of these situations hinge upon the idea that we are all responsible to make our own choices. The problem is that too many people don't, or won't, trust others to be able to make their own decisions. They don't believe that the common man is enlightened enough to make those calls. This attitude is why we end up with laws about wearing seatbelts or against suicide. The people who advocate this kind of interference in other people's lives are usually the first ones to say, "Somebody should do something" or "There ought to be a law." This point of view is not based on logic or freedom. It's based on emotion. Their blatant meddling in other people's lives allows them to feel all warm and fuzzy because they did something to "help someone who wasn't able to help themselves" while ignoring damage they are doing to the idea of personal freedom.

If you feel that people cannot be trusted to make their own choices then you are no different than every petty dictator and despot that ever lived. You are just another tyrant trying to inflict your values and decisions on me and mine. Stop meddling and leave people to choose for themselves. Your motives are irrelevant. To borrow and old saying, there's a very hot place with a very well-maintained road leading to it that you are helping pave.


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