A Libertarian “No” on Question 2

By Jen Lade

On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters will face a ballot question that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the Commonwealth. Question 2 would enact the proposed “Death With Dignity” act, which would allow terminally ill people given less than six months to live the option to get a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug.

Proponents of the bill are giving all manner of emotional arguments for how lovely and dignified it would be if Grandma could off herself at her leisure. Many opponents have an equally emotional response: suicide is disturbing, and its legalization points to a pretty messed up society.

But beyond the emotions of the issue, there are some truths that make the so-called Death With Dignity act a horrible idea.

First, there are the flaws with the law’s safeguards. An heir or caregiver can serve as a witness when the patient makes a written request for the medication. Furthermore, no physician needs to be present when the lethal dose is taken. A patient could easily be pressured into requesting and then ingesting the drugs, or worse, the drugs could be administered against the patient’s will by someone else, since no doctor needs to be present.

Patients do not even need to see a psychiatrist before getting the drug. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that many people who have been given six months to live (and such a prognosis is guesswork, by the way) are going to be depressed. Why not treat the depression first and see if that makes them rethink killing themselves? Why not require a consultation for palliative care, which can eliminate pain at the end of life?

And of course, there are the slippery slope arguments: assisted suicide simply opens the door for euthanasia; for insurance companies denying claims for treatment but being more than happy to pay for a lethal dose of a drug; for a decline in the quality of palliative care; and for state-sanctioned suicide to lead to a higher suicide rate overall, as it has in Oregon, where assisted suicide is already legal.

As someone who identifies strongly with libertarian ideals, I at first struggled with how I could justify opposition to this act on a purely political level. After all, shouldn’t adults be able to decide for themselves how to live their lives (or in this case, end their lives), as long as it does not infringe on someone else’s rights? But the fact of the matter is, this is a poorly-written law that leaves the elderly and the infirm vulnerable to abuse. What is being cast by supporters as the epitome of freedom and choice could in fact become a way for the terminally ill to be killed outright, or at least coerced into killing themselves. Just the fact that assisted suicide is an option could guilt a terminally ill person to conclude that the decent thing to do would be to take the drugs and stop burdening their loved ones.

And, on a very morbid level, committing suicide is already possible, even easy, without this act. Leave it to the government to stick its nose into the business of killing yourself. A hose in the tailpipe isn’t enough for the bureaucrats; it’s not dignified until it’s government-sanctioned.

This Web site has additional information and editorials that add to the body of evidence that this act cannot be allowed to pass.

Massachusetts voters, vote No on Question 2. As for the rest of the country, stay vigilant. You never know when assisted suicide could be coming to a state near you.

[Click here to read about the Congressional race for MA-4: Bielat vs. Kennedy]

8 thoughts on “A Libertarian “No” on Question 2

  1. It, in fact, may be a poorly written law and will most likely be soundly defeated. It’s funny but I have only seen ads against the proposition and zero for it, the medical profession being the most persuasive. My response is that some folks are against it which is fine. What about those of us that aren’t? Like drug prohibition, it seems easy for some to say, ” I don’t want the government telling me what to do with my life, but drugs, no way can we legalize those, just doesn’t make sense”. More than a few libertarians would say it makes a lot of sense. I have a hard time seeing the difference here. Help me out someone! Ok, suicide has gone up in Oregon. How does this affect the citizens of Oregon? I would like to see government out of our personal lives. Period! Maybe a better written law with, I dare say, better regulation next time will be acceptable for the majority of Mass citizens. I’m still surprised this one got this far.

  2. Jay, in the future if a bill was written better I would probably have to support it based on the libertarian principles of individual freedom. Steve, this site pretty consistently advocates free-market Constitutionalism.

    • Joe and Jen, Q2 went down to the wire didn’t it? Maybe this will show up again after some tweaks to the law. I think it’s an important issue that we should be talking about. Thanks for your input.

  3. Thanks for your input too Jay, it is an important issue, and a tough one for me because I like to keep emotion out of arguments. While i hate for the government to legitimize something I find scary, if there is no constitutional limitation on it, then it really should be up to the voters or legislators. In this case however, I think to properly protect the life of elderly people from heirs or caregivers with bad intentions, it needs to include more limitations, such as who can approve the medication.

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