By Laurence Vance (www.lewrockwell.com), 21/4/2015
A good friend who is a pastor asks a sincere question about libertarianism and assisted suicide. The fact that he even asked shows that he is a thinking man who is not quick to accept the traditions and talking points that pass for sound doctrine in too many conservative churches today.
Before continuing, since some conservatives—and especially conservative Christians—are already stammering, stuttering, and spluttering because of what they think I might say, I should say that I don’t want anyone to commit suicide, I don’t think anyone should commit suicide, I don’t think doctors should help anyone commit suicide, I don’t think anyone should help anyone else commit suicide, and I don’t think anyone should kill someone who wants to commit suicide, no matter how many times he is asked or how much money he is offered.
And of course, I am opposed to the euthanasia of any human being for any reason. Conservatives say they are as well, but to hear the way some of them talk about the necessity of killing subhuman A-rabs and ragheads in the Middle East (just like their forefathers talked about the necessity of killing subhuman Japs and gooks), it sure sounds like they believe in the euthanasia of foreigners with darker skin or slanted eyes whom the government declares to be the “enemy” or a “terrorist.”
But I should also say that I am not indifferent to the plight of those who suffer from chronic or debilitating pain, a severe or permanent disability, an incurable or irreversible disease, or extreme mental or emotional anguish. I don’t judge or condemn them for wanting to walk in front of a bus, jump off a building, or lie down on a railroad track.
I will also say what many people think but are afraid to say publicly: the world would be better off if some people committed suicide. Like mass murderers, for example. What if Hitler had shot himself ten months or ten years earlier than he did? Would anyone be disappointed that he didn’t call the suicide prevention hotline? What if Jeffrey Dahmer had committed suicide before he raped, murdered, dismembered, and ate seventeen young men instead of being bludgeoned to death in prison years afterward?
After I e-mailed some thoughts to my pastor friend, I was going to drop the issue until I saw the very next day an article by a cultural conservative affiliated with the Heritage Foundation on why physician-assisted suicide is social contagion.
I write not to “defend” physician-assisted suicide, but merely to point out that assisted suicide is a problem of the government’s own making. I also want to make some observations on a free society.
Assisted suicide is legal in the states of New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. There is apparently some dispute over the law in Montana. Like 99.99 percent of everything else, this is a state issue; the federal government should have nothing to do with it. Yet, because of the policies of the federal government, assisted suicide is a problem of the federal and state governments’ own making.
Here are five reasons why:
- The war on drugs.
- Medical licensing laws.
- Criminalizing the practice of medicine.
- The FDA drug approval monopoly.
- Prescription drug laws.
The war on drugs prevents people from obtaining drugs that might otherwise keep them from committing suicide. The fear of going to jail for being caught with illegal drugs, the high cost of illegal drugs, and the dangers inherent in purchasing drugs on black market keep many people from obtaining the drugs that might help them.
Medical licensing laws restrict the supply of both physicians and those who wish to practice medicine. In other words, this restricts the supply of those who might be able to provide help to someone who is wanting to commit suicide.
Doctors are often prevented from prescribing pain medication that would ease the suffering of terminally ill patients. Because many doctors have been made into criminals for trying to help their patients with pain management, doctors have to be overly cautious lest government criminalize their practice of medicine.
The FDA alone has been granted authority to approve new drugs. Because this process takes years, some people die or needlessly suffer for years before a drug is approved that could help them. It also means that some experimental drugs are never approved. But if someone is already dying of a terminal disease, what possible reason could there be for keeping drugs from him that might possibly help him?
Prescription drug laws prevent people from getting whatever drugs they want or think they need to manage their physical or emotional pain and suffering.
The government even bears some of the responsibility for suicides since at least twenty veterans each day take their life because they can’t adjust to a civilian life after fighting senseless and unnecessary foreign wars.
We do not have a free society in the United States. Not when you need a permit to have a garage sale, not when kids are tasered and pepper sprayed at school, not when you can be locked up in jail for trying to purchase too much Sudafed to relieve your stuffy nose, not when police act as judge, jury, and executioner, not when you can be arrested for reselling a concert ticket, not when you can be sexually assaulted by the TSA at an airport, not when there are 100 SWAT raids in American on any given day, not when the government reads your e-mails and listens to your phone calls.
But if we did have a free society, there are a number of things that would be true as relating to drugs, medicine, doctors, and suicide.
In a free society, physicians don’t need a license to practice medicine.
In a free society, the government doesn’t interfere in any way with the doctor-patient relationship.
In a free society, new drugs don’t have to be approved by the FDA.
In a free society, the manufacture, cultivation, purchase, sale, possession, and use of all drugs is perfectly legal.
In a free society, government has nothing whatsoever to do with health care, drugs, medical practice, hospitals, doctors, medical research, or health insurance.
In a free society, government has nothing to do with suicide prevention—just like government would have nothing to do with preventing drug use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy eating, obesity, or smoking.
In a free society, no one needs a prescription to purchase medication.
In a free society, some bad doctors and nurses will try to kill patients—just like some bad doctors and nurses try to kill patients now.
In a free society, attempting to kill yourself will not get you locked up in a mental hospital.
In a free society, people could jump off a bridge or step in front of a dump truck if they wanted to commit suicide—just like they can now.
In a free society, no one could go around shooting people and then claim in his defense that the people whom he shot asked him to assist them to die.
In a free society, no physician would be obligated to help anyone commit suicide.
In a free society, physicians, for legal and moral reasons, would want to be doubly and triply sure and fully document that any patient they assisted to commit suicide was of a sound mind and unequivocally wanted to end his life.
In a free society, whether we like it or not and whether we agree with it or not, drug companies could market a “suicide pill.” Take two tablets at night and you won’t be able to call anyone in the morning.
In a free society, euthanasia—by government death panel or family physician—is a criminal offense.
In a free society, even with the increased availability of drugs and medical practitioners, some people may still want to kill themselves.
In a free society, because individuals, not government or society, own their own body, they can seek any medical treatment of their choosing, or chose not to seek any treatment, for whatever reason.
In a free society, it is always none of the government’s business and ultimately none of anyone else’s business if someone wants to commit suicide.
I write not to defend, endorse, approve, sanction, promote, or encourage assisted suicide. Merely to state an important and overlooked fact and make some observations. There are many things that could be said about assisted suicide, but that it is a problem of the government’s own making should be at the top of the list.