of the Premature-Death Approach to the Right-to-Die
Former Opponents of the Right-to-Die
Opponents of the right-to-die reject that proposed
because they worry that abuses
and mistakes will
which will result in unnecessary loss of life.
These worries by the opposition are explored in great detail in
CATALOG OF WORRIES, PROBLEMS,
DANGERS, PERILS, ABUSES, & MISTAKES
POSSIBLE UNDER ANY SYSTEM PERMITTING CHOSEN DEATH.
catalog explores several different possible
including such things as protecting patients from greedy relatives,
preventing teen suicides, controlling 'angels of death',
& preventing the devaluation of certain patients.
Each sort of potential problem
is linked with a specific set of recommended safeguards
that would be most effective in preventing that abuse or mistake.
When each proposed safeguard is examined in detail,
it becomes evident that the fundamental purpose of that safeguard
is to prevent premature
And this is also the goal of the opposition,
to prevent what they call "physician-assisted
suicide" and "euthanasia".
These problematic expressions are discussed at length at these
And some more neutral expressions are offered:
and "gentle death".
People who oppose the so-called "right-to-die"
worry that vulnerable
patients will be put to death without
And they believe that the best
way to prevent such abuses
is to resist any and all
to change the laws.
But when the laws are changed in such a way
as to define the new crime
of causing premature death,
then the worries of the
opposition are embodied in the new laws.
Such laws explicitly define and punish any behavior
that would cause the premature death of the patient,
for instance, without exploring all the other alternatives first.
The safeguards embodied in laws against causing
offer easy-to-understand methods for separating
life-ending decisions that
would result in a premature death
from life-ending choices
that would result in a timely death,
death at the best time—not
too soon, not too late.
Each side of the right-to-die debate sometimes
demonizes the other.
But if everyone concerned about deciding the best time to die
were to cooperate in
creating new laws against causing premature death,
we could probably make laws that both sides can embrace.
This is the common ground:
We all want to prevent
patients from dying too soon.
There are many ways in which patients might be hustled into death.
And the explicit safeguards in any laws against causing premature death
would describe specific
methods by which such abuses will be avoided.
And in those rare cases when life-ending
decisions do harm,
the laws against causing premature death will punish the offenders
by putting them into prison for significant periods of time.
These potential punishments will be well known
to everyone in the health-care professions.
Just as they now worry about malpractice
suits if they make mistakes,
they will then have to worry about criminal prosecution
if they do or say anything
to cause any patient to die
Likewise, laypersons who might be tempted to 'pull
the plug' too soon
will know that they might be charged with causing premature death
if their reasons for wanting the patient dead
do not correspond with the best interests of the patient.
Let the creative dialog begin.
The old laws against murder are very blunt instruments
when applied to complicated
bedside decisions for dying patients.
So we do need new laws
the abuses and mistakes that
place in any medical setting.
In the recent past, relatives charged
have often been acquitted
by sympathetic juries.
Often the family members were motivated
by compassion for the suffering of the dying relative.
And when they saw no established means of choosing a wise death,
they committed the crime commonly known as "mercy-killing".
When new laws are created to punish
causing premature death,
'mercy-killings' will become less common.
Laypeople as well as heath-care professionals
will know exactly what safeguards they should fulfill
to make sure that they are
toward a wise and ethical
decision for death.
In many case, the safeguards will tell the relatives to go
trying alternative approaches before they finally decide
that death is the best choice for the suffering patient.
Created March 30,
2007; revised 3-31-2007; 2-1-2008; 2-28-2008; 8-25-2008; 3-5-2009;
3-27-2010; 2-15-2011; 1-17-2012; 1-22-2012; 2-28-2012; 3-30-2012;
7-19-2012; 9-7-2012; 4-6-2013