As Goldy mentioned below, things got pretty heated in the podcast last night over I-1000, the Death With Dignity initiative in Washington State. This initiative would bring Oregon’s assisted suicide law to this state. While Oregon remains the only state with such a law, the predictions of innocent old people being preyed on by doctors and alarmingly high levels of suicides never materialized. In fact, less than 300 people have taken advantage of the law to end their lives on their own terms in the decade it’s been on the books. More data here from Oregon shows that the law has been effective and has served the function that it was meant to serve.
On my way over to Drinking Liberally yesterday, I found an I-1000 petition to sign along Pike St downtown, and a few hours (and vodka tonics) later, I was berating Joel Connelly over his opposition to the measure, which I find to be extremely hypocritical for someone who is pro-choice when it comes to abortion. I want to elaborate on why that’s the case here.
Here’s what he wrote in today’s edition of the PI:
The view here: I oppose allowing the state to sanction a decision by people to kill themselves.
It’s part personal, a father who wanted to “go quietly” after a cancer diagnosis, but who lived and was loved for 2 1/2 more years. And we’re not Sparta. The state exists to protect its most vulnerable citizens, the very young and the very old.
While I agree that the state has a duty to protect its most vulnerable citizens, I do not automatically equate the very young with the very old. Not all individuals at the end of their lives are incapable of making informed adult decisions. Many people, when faced with the prospect of imminent death, are extremely clear in their thinking and their choices.
And beyond that, I strongly reject the idea that the state exists to protect citizens from their own moral decisions. This is the foundation that leads to my pro-choice beliefs and my overall libertarian outlook. One could easily argue that a woman with an unwanted pregnancy is “vulnerable,” and could in turn use the same logic that Joel uses here to demand that the state make the decision for her.
During the podcast, I had to point out to Joel several times that he was using arguments that were identical to arguments I’ve heard and read from anti-choice activists. There’s little distinction between the value judgement that a person makes towards their own life and the value judgement that a pregnant mother makes towards the life that is growing inside of her (even though the latter is technically not a human life yet). Both value judgements are for the individual to make, and the state should not be involved. Believing that one judgement is sacred to the individual, while the other is not, is a hypocritical stance. Either human beings have domain over their own bodies or they don’t.
There’s a lot that Joel and I agree on in the political realm and I still enjoy talking to him, but I’m profoundly disappointed that he’s allowing emotion to get in the way of reason here and working against establishing a right in this state that should be as fundamental as the right to an abortion.