Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Treatment and Autonomy

Though it’s not the subject of this blog, certainly the philosophies of antinatalism and legalized suicide share SOME common ground, intersecting at the point of human suffering. Sister Y has posted an article over at The View From Hell; and her thoughts on personality vis-a-vis decision making, along with some others in the corresponding comments section, have me thinking about practical answers to the dilemma as outlined in her post. Here’s my solution:

First of all, we set up regional, user friendly suicide centers ala ‘Soylent Green’, to which any potential self-terminator can freely apply. The only requirements are that the applicant must endure a pre-established waiting period. I suggest 6 months to a year. During this time, the subject will be required to undergo ‘counseling’...but NOT the kind established merely to be a coercive obstacle. I’m thinking more along the lines of a ‘friendly ear’, with no mind towards thwarting the subject’s ostensible wishes. This method offers the subject a chance to talk everything out with no fear of moral judgment or sanctions, with the ‘counselor’ serving the function of soundingboard. I’ve found that sometimes the best way for sorting out feelings is to hear yourself talking about them. Of course, during these interviews concerns can be expressed, and alternative solutions offered, INCLUDING the medicinal sort...but all done with the understanding that the final decisions are left WHOLLY up to the subject, thus retaining the sense of the individual’s autonomy. It seems to me that such a pressure-free environment can itself offer a mode of healing and clarity, if indeed there are resolvable issues on the side of life.

If at the end of the waiting period the applicant is still resolved to suicide, so be it. They’re assisted in tidying up their affairs (IF they request assistance), delivered to the local euthanasia center, where they receive a nice last meal in a comfortable, non-threatening atmosphere, then led into a room filled with their favorite art, or music, or whatever they request within reason, and are administered an overdose of barbiturates. Fini.

Of course, if at any time during the waiting period the subject opts out of the plan, they are released from any further obligations, and allowed to go on their way. Later on down the road if they again choose to end their lives, the process starts over from scratch. All in all, this is the most humane solution I can think of. It addresses the concerns of those who fear hasty decisions made under the influence of temporary emotional duress, or anomalous farts in the brain chemistry, or what have you, while still maintaining a bottom line personal autonomy.

So, any flaws in my thinking here?


Sister Y said...

This is exactly the sort of solution I am after. Indeed - what is wrong with it? It shocks me that people who watch Soylent Green see the suicide parlors as a particular horror, when the world depicted in that movie is even more of a pointless pit of suffering than is our current world.

As I've suggested, your solution might even be cheaper than trying to prevent suicides through coercion. Georgia, for instance, spends $40 million a year on hospitalization and ER treatment of attempted suicides - which works out to around $44,000 per successful suicide.

Hardcore libertarians, of course, would object to your plan almost as much as to the current situation, but I think your plan is much better from a libertarian perspective. As Justice Brennan put it in his dissent in Cruzan v. Director, MDH, 497 U.S. 261 (1990), ". . . the State has no legitimate general interest in someone's life, completely abstracted from the interest of the person living that life, that could outweigh the person's choice to avoid medical treatment [emphasis mine]."

Anonymous said...

This is really smart. I appreciate your thinking outside of the box. I hope we can have something like that someday.