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Eric MacDonald Has a Blog
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lil_shepherd
Some of you may be interested in this new blog, called 'Choice in Dying'.

http://choiceindying.com/

As the title suggests, its main purpose is to argue for the right to assisted suicide and, in particular, against religious interference in policies governing this choice. This is a very personal thing to the author, whose wife died at Dignitas of her own choice as her severe MS became too much to bear. Eric MacDonald is an extremely articulate atheist, but as an ex-priest (Anglican) he knows religion from the inside. His comments on Butterflies and Wheels and Why Evolution is True have earned him a personal following among the readers of those blogs. If you are interested in the arguments surrounding assisted dying, or the influence of religion on public policy and personal morality, you might take a look.

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I thought I was very clear where I stood on this (very supportive of people's right to die, which is what you'd expect for a liberal rational atheist type). And then I read Jane Campbell on the subject. Very definitely a 'thing that made me go hrrrm'. So now I am thinking hard.

I don't think anyone is suggesting there should be no controls, but, subject to that, I am always in favour of people being allowed to make their own decisions.

Campbell's argument is that this is a civil rights issue. We make life so intolerable for some disabled people that they would rather die than put up with the lack of decent living conditions. The solution is, therefore, not 'giving people choices' but improving the lives, and particularly the life chances, of disabled people.

Remember that the Lords voted against right to die legislation largely as a direct result of Campbell's intervention. This isn't the House of Lords being the fuddy-duddies they're depicted as in popular culture; they thought about it and she changed their minds.

Where Campbell and I part company, I suspect, is right to die for people with rapidly terminal deteriorating conditions, where I think the argument that you should be able to choose the time and place of your death and avoid the last few weeks of indignity and pain is unanswerable.

I think this argument is extremely condescending to disabled people.

So give them the right to die when they want and improve their choices and life chances.

If Campbell is really right that all they need is better conditions, they won't make use of the right to die--no harm done.

And if Campbell is wrong, or if there is no political will to improve the conditions, they won't be trapped in intolerable circumstances.

Let us not make a theoretical, possibly-achievable perfect into the enemy of the good that could be done right now.

The only valid reasons for forcibly interfering with people's choice to die are (1) that they aren't in their right mind or (2) that they're being pressured to end their lives. The law needs to have safeguards against these situations. The question of whether life is "intolerable" enough to entitle someone to the choice shouldn't enter into the law.

Gosh, Gary, there is something on which we agree entirely. Those were the 'controls' I was thinking about.

Thirded. My body, my life, my decision -- and one of the reasons to make that decision is to avoid the "not in one's right mind" issue. If I'd rather sacrifice some small amount of rational lifetime in exchange for not being trapped inside an unthinking shell for who-knows-how-long, I don't care whose religious sensibilities are bruised by my choice.

It looks interesting, but that subject matter is hard for me to take on a regular basis.

Me too. I'll probably skim it once every couple of weeks and pick out the bits that interest me.

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