LEGAL: Assisted suicide

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 05 Apr 1999 15:42:12 -0500

Sasha Chislenko wrote:
> At 13:12 04/05/99 , Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> >This particular case was not that simple. The ALS patient in this
> >case was physically capable of making the willful act necessary to
> >end his own life (when appropriately attached to an apparatus for
> >this that Dr. K uses frequently), but in this case he did not--the
> >Dr. actually took that act. "Consent" is not so clear here. If
> >he was capable of expressing a desire to die, and capable of doing
> >the act, why didn't he?
> There are lots of cases when people ask others to perform acts they
> can, but don't want to, perform personally, for various reasons.
> I can ask somebody to massage my feet or move my furniture to
> another location. Such acts are perfectly legal if I perform them
> myself, and highly objectionable if performed by somebody else
> without my consent. However, procedures of expressing consent in
> all such cases are quite clear and commonly accepted.
> The fact that identical procedures are not accepted in the case of
> suicide, only seems to indicate the unwillingness of the society to
> apply normal logic to the touchy subject of suicide.

Erm, actually, I have to agree with Crocker here. Assisted suicide, unlike other forms of assistance, closes off the possibility of getting confirmation from the service recipient. The benefits of legalizing assisted suicide are outweighed by the problems, at this stage in technology and medical ethics. Legalizing ordinary suicide addresses the only real problem. What I'd really like to see would be life insurance that pays off if you suicide with an incurable illness, but we're not likely to see that unless the health insurance people start squawking.

--          Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.