Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against by Kevin Yuill (auth.)

By Kevin Yuill (auth.)

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6 Margaret Somerville positively celebrates mystery in a Kierkegaardian sense, using arguments very unlikely to convince humanists and those who make it their goal to demystify life. She presents a similar perspective to Dyck, Biggar and Gorsuch, but discusses the sanctity of life in terms of the mystery of death. That which unites us, which makes us more than the sum of our material parts, remains mysterious. Somerville sharply points to the reductive individualism inherent in the campaign for legalization.

As we go to press, Massachusetts’ 2012 ballot initiative to allow assisted suicides was narrowly defeated, 51 to 49 per cent. Many European countries have no specific laws against assisting a suicide but can and do prosecute such cases under other legislation such as that governing manslaughter (Sweden) or failure to assist a person in danger (France). In Oregon, Washington and, it appears, in Montana,21 assisted suicide is legal and in Oregon, where the law has operated for over 14 years, a few dozen people per year take up this option.

Someone who is dying but has seven months to live who ingests the same poison is, according to the same sources, an assisted suicide. The change in terminology, then, is not simply political correctness but an indication of a new role that proponents envisage for doctors. Importantly, the rejection of the term ‘suicide’ implies that the moral taint of suicide in particular circumstances that are determined by officials, lawmakers and doctors is to be removed. The action of taking one’s life is no different in the two scenarios.

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