Saturday, February 21, 2015

The ‘Liberal’ Collectivist Case Against Doctor-Assisted Suicide

“Late Thursday night [11/13/14], and driven largely by new energy from the national story of Brittany Maynard, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill in favor of assisted suicide.”

So began a New Jersey Star-Ledger op-ed against doctor-assisted suicide by Charles Camosy, associate professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University.

Camosy’s argument is particularly interesting because it goes against the stereotypical assumption that “liberals” support assisted suicide and conservatives oppose it:

Support of assisted suicide is thought to be a liberal idea, but arguments in support sound remarkably conservative. Personal autonomy. Government staying out of my life. Individual rights trumping the common good.

Camosy is a self-described “liberal.” I have observed other “liberals” or “progressives” opposing assisted suicide, as well. So there seems to be a split in the “liberal” camp. The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran, a “liberal,” has been strong in favor of assisted suicide precisely on the grounds that the decision to live or die is all about personal autonomy. “The government’s intrusion can seem downright offensive.,” he wrote recently. Citing conservative opposition, he went on, “The irony is that it’s the small-government crowd . . . that is most eager to step in.”

But as Camosy says—and I agree—it is “liberals” like Moran who are being inconsistent. [I addressed the issue of “liberals’” and conservatives’ inconsistency on this issue in Assisted Suicide, “Liberals,” and Conservatives.] Camosy goes on to ally with conservative collectivists assisted suicide debate.

I left these comments, with additional quotes from Camosy:

It’s true that modern liberals who support assisted suicide are inconsistent to liberal principles. Liberalism’s basic philosophy is collectivism, the doctrine that holds the individual as subordinate to the group, which is sovereign. The legalization of doctor-assisted suicide belongs to the philosophy of individualism, which holds the individual as sovereign. (Conservatives are not individualists, either, so it is not true that legalization of assisted suicide is conservative.)

People who believe they should have the power to run everyone else’s lives always fall back on vague collectivist catchphrases like the “common good.” But that term—the “common good”—is rarely defined. The reason; to define it is to expose it as the empty fraud that it is, and destroy the power-lusters’ only rationalization, as Camosy proves later on.

Individual human beings are not cells in some larger organic entity. “Humanity” is not an organic entity. The only organic entity that exists is the individual. Only the individual can digest food, feel, think, value, or judge. There is no other organic entity—and no common good.

The only thing all humans have in common is that we are all autonomous individuals possessing our own minds, bodies, values, goals, moral standards—and, in a moral society, freedom. There is no “common” to which some supreme concept of the “good” uniformly applies. There is not and never has been any such conflict as “individual rights vs. the common good,” because no one has the right to declare any “good” to be common to everyone, to be imposed by force on everyone. There is no common good apart from the individual’s right to judge for ourselves what is good for ourselves. Their is only the inalienable right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness—or not.

Run from anyone who proclaims “the common good trumps individual rights,” for that is the person who seeks to violate your humanity, subordinate your concept of the good to his, and rule you by force. The truth of this is exposed later in the article:

Against this individualist approach, liberals focus on the common good and how policies impact vulnerable people.

Precisely. Liberals love the vulnerable, because they hate the invulnerable, whom they excommunicate from the “common.” To a liberal, the “common good” applies to anybody but the courageous, the competent, the rational, the independent, the strong of character. Liberals’ “focus” is to shackle and sacrifice such uncommon people. One does not have to, and morally should not, sacrifice the strong to protect the “vulnerable.” Those who do, cannot claim life as their motive.

Both Brittany Maynard, who was terminally ill, and Christina Symanski, who was not terminally ill, made brave, thoughtful, rational choices to end their lives [Symanski’s, sadly, without proper medical assistance, which cruelly was legally forbidden to her]. Their actions didn’t hurt anyone, “vulnerable” or not. They made decisions about their own lives and bodies. Their choices were based on introspective recognitions of the fact that their lives in any meaningful sense were essentially over. Their respective choices not to endure in a state of living death sprang from their love of life. Those who would legally deny them and the rest of us that choice are the ones who are “diabolical”; i.e., anti-life, and ignorant of “the goodness of existence.” Who has a right to deny anyone their rights based on a “common good” that they judged not to be good for them? There is no good in an existence stripped of the right to life, which means the right to live one’s own life by one’s own rational judgement—right up to the end. It is against brave, life-loving people like Maynard and Symanski that laws “protecting” the “vulnerable” are aimed.
A noble social system liberates the individual from the tyranny of the “common good” authoritarians. Camosy asserts that “In a youth-worshiping and capitalist culture, older people are pushed to the margins, understood as a drain or burden on their families and society.” But not everybody pushes older people to the margins. Capitalism, the system of individual rights, protects such people. Not everyone considers the elderly as a burden or drain. Capitalism protects such people. But if you yourself decide you are a burden on others, and don’t want to live as a helpless parasite, draining the time and resources of the friends and family you love and value, capitalism protects your right not to go on living that way. A government under capitalism protects the rights of the “vulnerable” and strong—the “common” and the uncommon—alike, sacrificing neither to the other, or to some fantasy labeled the “common good.”

Related Reading:

Denying Assisted Suicide Rights Based on Potential “Abuse” is Immoral

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