Physician-Assisted Dying and Same-Sex Marriage: The Connection

Nov 20, 2014

By Ronald A. Lindsay

Two major changes in the American legal landscape are in progress, although one change is further along than the other. I’m referring to the legalization of same-sex marriage and physician-assisted dying (PAD), a.k.a. physician-assisted suicide. Same-sex marriage is now legal in over thirty states and, depending on action by the Supreme Court, may soon be legal nationwide. PAD is currently legal in only four states, but initiatives to legalize the practice are underway in several other states. Just last Thursday, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill that would legalize PAD in that state.

That these changes in the law are taking place concurrently is more than just a coincidence. They represent a continuation of a process that began in the late eighteenth century. A significant, transformative series of changes has occurred in many societies in the last two centuries, and these changes can best be described as an enlargement of the scope of individual autonomy.

The first changes were in the areas of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. Many in developed countries now take these freedoms for granted, but before the Enlightenment it was not unusual for governments to mandate adherence to certain religious beliefs and to prohibit free expression. Unfortunately, recognition of the rights of the individual at first left untouched the institution of slavery and the subordinate status of women. However, the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, through the elimination of slavery and the emancipation of women, witnessed the extension of liberty to those who had previously been denied even the most basic freedoms. The enlargement of  personal autonomy then continued with a marked increase in social mobility (people were no longer expected to stay within their “class”), laws that facilitated both marriage and divorce, and the recognition of  reproductive rights. By the late twentieth century, people in many countries could speak freely, follow their conscience in matters of religion, pursue whatever profession they desired, and decide whether or not to have children.

Legalization of same-sex marriage and PAD is properly regarded as a continuation of the process of granting greater scope to personal freedom. People should be free to marry whomever they love, whether of the opposite sex or the same sex, and they should be allowed a measure of control over the most intimate decision a person can make, namely whether to hasten their death.


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9 comments on “Physician-Assisted Dying and Same-Sex Marriage: The Connection

  • I started challenging the established view of gay people in 1969. At the beginning there was nobody in favour of what I was doing, not even gay people. They wanted things left as they were so it would be easier to live in the closet. If Canadians did not believe gays existed here, they could not very well notice and harm them.

    Christians had their way for centuries because nobody dared question them. Once conversations started, the cruelty and insanity of their views came clear, and the young changed their attitudes almost instantly.

    We are challenging the arrogance of Christians in the euthaniasia debates. They are used to making up the rules and imposing them on everyone else.

    In both cases, the shrill Christians appeared much more powerful than they really were.

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  • 4
    Vicar of Art on Earth says:

    A lot of non believers with disabilities are rather shocked there is no discussion of the right to a life with a disability if a person chooses. In a for profit health insurance culture I would not want to open opportunities to increase the wealth of the people who can afford fee for service. The corporate take over of poverty and disability programs, the eligibility requirements that demand absolute poverty for long term care.

    No one on this side is asking some of the very important questions. Instead it is this self righteous duty to be good stereotype Eskimos and walk off into the blizzard at the first sign of disability.

    One suggestion would be to take the whole process out of the healthcare industry.

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  • Vicar of Art on Earth Nov 21, 2014 at 5:29 am

    A lot of non believers with disabilities are rather shocked there is no discussion of the right to a life with a disability if a person chooses.

    I think this is a separate discussion.
    The rights of the disabled to a satisfying life, is well removed from the right of the choice to die of the terminally ill who are suffering.

    In a for profit health insurance culture I would not want to open opportunities to increase the wealth of the people who can afford fee for service. The corporate take over of poverty and disability programs, the eligibility requirements that demand absolute poverty for long term care.

    Corporate profit, in care services, is an issue, for both the young disabled, and for the fading geriatric (and their families) in their old age.

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  • I agree Alan. Disabled rights are not great in many countries, including those who would claim to be tolerant and helpful to the disabled, I include the US and UK in that category. However, it is a separate argument.

    As for my right to die with dignity, I hope the UK government passes laws to help this, although am not confident. A things are at the moment I am OK but require regular pain relief and I know there will come a time when my joints pack up completely. I have no wish to become a vegatable in a wheelchair, living on Oramorph and the like. That is not like an Eskimo walking into a blizzard, as Vicar put it, it is a right I and others should have to call time when the pain and disability gets too great.

    PS: I do not foresee this happening in my case for a few years, so you will all have to out up with my comments a bit longer.

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  • 7
    aquilacane says:

    For a country that is seemingly in favour of cop assisted suicide (murder/personslaughter) and trespassing assisted suicide (murder/personslaughter) both with no legal ramifications, you would think offing yourself would be a reality TV show by now.

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  • 8
    aquilacane says:

    Having corporations involved in healthcare really bothers me. Keeping the people safe and healthy is the only useful thing a government can do. Every other function government performs is useless to me if I am dead. If Canada went full corporate healthcare, I would have no need for it and would find another country where my tax dollars do something for me. Nothing matters to the dead.

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  • Another example of “all-knowing” faith-head bigotry, based on doctrinal ignorance, is illustrated here:

    An anti-abortion protester has been convicted of harassing a Marie Stopes clinic director at her Belfast city centre offices.

    Bernadette Smyth, who leads the anti-abortion group Precious Life, was warned she could face a jail sentence for her campaign against Dawn Purvis.

    The judge said: “This case was run, no-holds barred, in a vicious and malicious fashion.”

    **He said an investigating police officer had been deliberately slandered.
    Ms Purvis had been the victim of an unwarranted attack, the judge said.

    Mrs Smyth was also told she will be ordered to pay compensation and would be restrained from the area around the clinic.

    The 51-year-old had denied harassing Ms Purvis, a former Progressive Unionist Party assembly member, on two dates earlier this year.

    The Marie Stopes clinic is the first private clinic to offer early medical abortions to women in Northern Ireland under its strict legal controls.

    Anti-abortion campaigners have gathered at the centre since it opened in October 2012.

    The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) is calling for new laws to move anti-abortion protesters from the doorstep of its clinics.

    BPAS, one of the UK’s main abortion providers, has told Newsbeat some patients are being confronted by graphic content.

    These include large posters and leaflets with pictures showing dismembered foetuses.

    But anti-abortion groups, like Abort67, say they are “educating” the public.

    BPAS is now campaigning for the Government to create “access zones” outside British abortion clinics to help women access them without be confronted by pro-life protesters.

    That’s similar to what already happens in parts of Canada. The zones would mean protesters have to be at least 10 metres away from the entrance of a clinic.

    The campaign, called Back Off, is also supported by other bodies, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Rape Crisis England and Wales, the Royal College of Midwives and Violence Against Women.

    But to a heavily deluded militant faith-head would-be “educator”!!! – “What do these medical specialists know to inform patients about procedures”?????

    It seems like they think responsible adults should be prevented from ending their suffering with dignity, which bunches of cells including deformed ones must be preserved at all costs. I suppose that’s the aggressively assertive, emotional, fumble-brained, “faith-head-attempt at logic“!

    The term “Pro-Life” is ironically comical, as most of its loud-mouthed supporters, have absolutely no idea about the biology of life they are ranting about!

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