MANDATE FOR THE SAFEGUARDS GROUP
(This statement of purpose was drafted
by James Park in the middle of
It was revised and posted on the
Internet in October 2006.
And it will be revised as needed
to include other things that the
Safeguards Group is actually doing.
Revised November 24, 2006; January 3, 2007; May 26, 2007; August 22,
2007; February 12, 2010)
This Safeguards Group
an electronic discussion
All advocates of the right-to-die are
invited to join.
This includes thinkers from anywhere in the world.
If this electronic discussion proves
meaningful, others will join later.
We would examine the pros and cons
of each safeguard proposed for any state
law in the USA
regarding the right-to-die
or any law used or proposed for any
This Safeguards Group
will not attempt to create safeguards
right-to-die laws that should apply in every state.
Supreme Court likes to refer to the "laboratory of the states",
different laws will be enacted and tested
diverse states that make up these United States.
Supreme Court did not find a right-to-die in the Constitution.
also did not find a prohibition
of the right-to-die.
individual states of the USA have the power to create
state laws regarding the right-to-die.
And other countries of the world
also have the power to create
their own laws concerning the right-to-die.
Anyone who drafts a new law
can include whatever safeguards seem meaningful and useful.
A few decades into the 21st century,
diverse states of the USA might converge on similar safeguards
uniform state laws might emerge eventually.
will only be possible
states go ahead to enact right-to-die laws
then tried in those
their hospitals, hospices, & homes.
few actual court cases have been tried under new laws,
will know how well the specific safeguards
embodied in those laws have worked in practice.
This is a SAFEGUARDS GROUP
than a LEGISLATION GROUP
believe that safeguards are the core of our problems
the right-to-die accepted by the public
legislation passed by state legislatures, etc.
This does not mean that we cannot discuss other
parts of proposed
think we should focus on the SAFEGUARDS first.
what right-to-die advocates are thinking all across the USA.
do right-to-die advocates in other countries
think about any proposed safeguards?
OF THE NEED FOR BETTER SAFEGUARDS
Right-to-die legislation has recently been defeated
following states: California, Michigan, Maine, Wyoming, Vermont,
defeats were experienced in Washington state (1991) and
United Kingdom, the Parliament has repeatedly turned down
legislation to empower the right-to-die:
1950, 1969, 1985, 1991, & 1994.
Why has this happened when the majority of people
to favor the right-to-die in some form?
The answer is simple (and complex): Not Enough
And there were not enough votes because a few people in the middle
liberalizing the laws.
Hypothesis: These swing votes among legislators
been swung the other way
had been better
safeguards in the proposed laws.
If this hypothesis is substantially correct,
going to have to propose more
and better safeguards
to win at least some
of the people in the middle.
We might not be entirely pleased with the
should create safeguards that we can at least tolerate.
If we create the
likely to create ways of preventing premature deaths
than if we
left it to the opposition
to create safeguards.
that there are people who are
opposed to any form of the right-to-die.
they make up 20-30% of any given population.)
'safeguards' they propose are more likely to look like
die-hard opponents of the right-to-die
make it nearly impossible to choose death.
To extend this analogy,
are like the guard-rails
at the sides of mountain roads
prevent cars from falling off.
guard-rails make every trip along that road safer.
But a road-block prevents any car
from proceeding along that road.
of the right-to-die want to stop
all chosen deaths,
how wise, helpful, rational, well-planned,
admirable some deaths might be.
A road-block prevents anyone from choosing that pathway towards death.
Those who erect road-blocks believe
that the road is too dangerous for anyone to travel.
But if there are good guard-rails,
some of those worriers will be won over
to the view that the
mountain road can be traveled safely.
(Some of the same people keep proposing 'safeguards'
really intended to 'save' as many fetuses as possible.
Their 'safeguards' are more like road-blocks than guard-rails.
other end of the political spectrum,
oppose nuclear power propose 'safeguards'
ultimate cause all nuclear power plants to shut down.
Such 'safeguards' are also more like road-blocks than guard-rails.)
What we need are reasonable
be accepted by the majority of people who must vote
proposed changes in law regarding the right-to-die.
Therefore, whatever legislation we propose,
safeguards than in the past.
the proposed legislation
defeated by opponents of the right-to-die
raise doubts about the likely (or unlikely) abuses and
take place under the new laws with weak safeguards.
QUESTIONS THAT MIGHT BE DISCUSSED
What specific safeguards were proposed in the
make these safeguards stronger and more credible?
for life-ending decisions must always be both workable and
What specific fears do the opponents raise?
specific safeguards can we create
overcome the doubts
and worries raised by the opposition?
hope to win over the 20% who are unalterably opposed
to the right-to-die.
But if we
can create safeguards
that do genuinely address
all rational concerns
and attempt to answer all reasonable objections
can hope to win some people in the middle.)
Probably we cannot create one simple set of
probably have to be a system of interlocking safeguards.
example, when the patient is no longer conscious and capable,
of prior documentation of his or her wishes
allowed to express his or her settled values?
content to lose our right-to-die if we get Alzheimer's disease?
There might be 30 or 40 different proposed
these are clearly absurd?
example, no one would propose that all Catholics
the personal approval of the Pope
they can exercise their right-to-die.
other extreme, no one would propose
be granted instantly on demand.
different, independent judgments are needed
that dying at this time and by this means is the wisest course?
How do we
keep strangers out of the loop as much as possible?
How do we
officially empower proxies
life-ending decisions for the patients who appointed them?
Some safeguards might address the worries raised by
example, we have not yet won many disabled people to our side.
that the right-to-die
will become the
first to people who are disabled
able-bodied people cannot imagine themselves
live with such limitations.
consultation with disability groups,
to prevent even the appearance
disabled people from being coerced into 'choosing' death.
(I do not believe that disabled people really have
anything to fear,
nevertheless need to create safeguards
right-to-die will not be misused against them.)
Likewise, some safeguards might address the worries
working to prevent
we are also opposed to irrational suicide.
So some of
our proposed safeguards could be directed specifically
misuse of the philosophy and methods
right-to-die movement to commit irrational suicide.
[Here is an essay distinguishing the familiar
concept of irrational
new concept of voluntary death:
Differences between Irrational Suicide and Voluntary Death":
People who have followed public and legislative
specific safeguards proposed for legislation which has
us (in our Safeguards Group)
the opposition said about each of the proposed safeguards.
the proposed safeguards have been improved
so as to
meet at least the most valid of the worries of the opposition?
Here is a beginning list of the worries of the
each linked to the safeguards
most likely to prevent those possible abuses and mistakes:
WORRIES, PROBLEMS, DANGERS, PERILS, ABUSES, & MISTAKES
POSSIBLE UNDER ANY SYSTEM PERMITTING CHOSEN DEATH":
Right-to-die advocates who were deeply involved in state
give our Safeguards Group detailed information
the opposition said in their states.
What distortions of our position were common in
create safeguards that cannot
be distorted by the
are usually reasonable people.
not easily misled by the rhetoric of one side or the other.
exact words of the proposed legislation
reasonable and workable to the legislators
vote for or against any proposed law.
As you can see from this beginning list of issues,
Safeguards Group will have lots of themes to discuss.
because safeguards must ultimately be put into English words
electronic discussion group should be a good way to examine
proposed safeguards word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence.
And even before any specific safeguard is embodied
in a state law,
it can be tried by any program designed to help patients at the end of
Which safeguards are useful even in hospice-like settings,
where more passive means of choosing death are common?
As our Safeguards Group begins to operate
and as new
people join our discussion,
probably expand our mandate as outlined here.
additional issues should this Safeguards Group discuss?