Sunday, November 30, 2014

Assisted Suicide, "Liberals", and Conservatives

The New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran recently defended the legalization of assisted suicide. Moran highlighted an op-ed for by 29-year-old Brittany Maynard. Maynard suffers from terminal brain cancer, and faces a weeks- or months-long agonizing death. To save herself and her family from that agony, Maynard decided to end her life on her own terms, rather than allow death to take its “natural” course. But Maynard’s home state of California forbids Maynard from seeking professional help in ending her life quietly and “with dignity.” So she had to move to Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal. Maynard wrote at

I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?

Moran agrees. So do I. I’ve written numerous posts on this issue. Here, I want to focus on this interesting statement of Moran’s. Referring to opponents of laws against assisted suicide, he wrote:

If you’ve ever witnessed a desperate fight like this up close, the government’s intrusion can seem downright offensive. The irony is that it’s the small-government crowd, including Gov. Chris Christie, that is most eager to step in. . . .

To put it another way, if a family is discussing this, why should the governor even be in the room?

But it’s not the small-government crowd in general that opposes assisted suicide. It’s a particular subset of that crowd—conservatives. Viewed from the perspective of conservatives, there’s no irony at all. Yes, conservatives tend to be “small government”—actually, smaller government—on economic matters. But on personal morals, they have always been for “big government.” Why? Because conservatives are obsessed with personal morals; hence, the desire for government controls in the personal moral sphere (abortion, marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, etc.)—the social sphere.

“Liberals” have their own “irony,” however. They’re small government when it comes to matters of personal morality, yet big government on economic matters. And, like conservatives, there is no irony at all when viewed from their perspective. Liberals are obsessed with money; hence, their unrelenting desire for government controls in matters of money—the economic sphere.

In fact, liberals and conservatives are mirror images of each other; each are big government (leaning anti-individual rights) in regard to their particular obsessions, and small government (leaning pro-individual rights) in the area less important to them. Neither are committed, principled advocates of individual rights. Rather, they choose freedom only in areas of life less important to them. To the extent they support liberty, they choose it only by default.

True small government factions, like Objectivists, reject the economic authoritarianism of the “liberals”, and the social authoritarianism of the conservatives. Rather, we are consistently pro-individual rights in both social and economic matters. We believe government should protect, and not violate, rights across the board.

Related Reading:

Right to Death—and to Life


Mike Kevitt said...

I recognize that the taking of ones own life, with or without assistance, is an individual right. If someone assists, by agreement with the person who wants assistance, it's that assistor's right.

But I think there can be a fine line, 'border cases', between assisted suicide and euthanasia. Euthanasia is, at the least, homicide, maybe even pre-meditated, 1st. degree murder. Euthanasia is performed on one who didn't agree, in writing, to assisted suicide.

Ayn Rand discussed 'border cases' in her writings she published during her lifetime. Border cases are resolved by the philosophy of law.

I add this: Philosophy of law resides only within individual rights. That's because individual rights circumscribes law. Any 'rule' outside individual rights ain't law, no matter how it's established, no matter what physical power it's backed by.

I remember Ayn Rand's coverage of border cases. She might've covered what I 'add' here. I can't remember. I had most of her published writings, but I lost them in the heat of chaotic action years ago, to my sorrow. Maybe Jeff Britting, of the ARI, can remedy that some day if I can get enough grub.

But let's not slip from assisted suicide into euthanasia.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...


I think the key is that the law require that the individual inject herself with the lethal agent or, in extreme cases, be awake and able to instruct another to do the injection. Assisted suicide should apply only to adults of sound mind. If a person is unconscious, the issue of assisted suicide is moot. In that case a living will or current law would apply, as it does now.

I think there is a sharp distinction between assisted suicide and euthanasia.