Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Suicide and the 'Slippery Slope' Argument

Are we still arguing about "assisted suicide"? Times web thinkie-typer Ross Douthat is, as he is "making an argument premised on the idea that suicide is generally wrong and helping someone kill themselves is generally a form of murder." Also he starts referring to the deaths of people who choose suicide who are of "sound-enough mind and uncoerced" as "self-slaughter"—while making the case that it's a "slippery slope." Why, if we let mortally ill people have control over their own deaths, then maybe everyone will just give up and die. (Also people will start gay-marrying pigs and sheep.) Yeah, that's why Jack Kervorkian assisted in all of 130 deaths. Has there ever actually been a slippery slope? (Don't argue this with Douthat, he likely thinks Roe v. Wade is a slippery slope on the way to government-run childcare facilities that exist to mutilate toddlers.) Every slope looks slippery to the variety of Catholic whose sole interests on this earth are the control of other people's bodies.

15 Comments / Post A Comment

MichelleDean (#7,041)

Yeah. "slippery slope" arguments are usually up there with "but how will we PAY for this" and "but what about the children" as arguments that are fundamentally philosophically empty. Sure, where do you draw the line, blahlahpedanticphilosophymajorblah, but you always have to draw one somewhere.

That said I would generally feel better about the pracice of euthanasia if it was put in the context of a well-functioning universal health care system than in the current… American morass. I can see a lot of people wanting to die early just not to bankrupt their families… And that is effed up. (SAYS CANADA.)

SeanP (#4,058)

@MichelleDean I mostly agree. And I think you can include "almost anything Ross Douthat says" to the list of fundamentally empty arguments. But I can't help but be a little concerned. Sure, at the moment, there's little likelihood of anyone being coerced into suicide. But it seems to me that there's quite a fine line between a right to suicide and a duty to it… particularly when there are grasping heirs involved. Certainly it's not unknown for people to actively knock off their rich relatives in hopes of an inheritance, so encouraging suicide doesn't seem too far-fetched. I guess if there was sufficient medical supervision (to prevent situations like the above, and avoid cases where people are killing themselves over treatable depression or pain), then I'd be comfortable with it.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

@MichelleDean @SeanP
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with slippery slope arguments as a method of probabilistic practical reasoning. Whether they are cogent just depends on the particular slope. Some are more slippery than others, and some have intolerable consequences waiting at the bottom of the slope.

As to the value part, about whether the consequences are intolerable, Douthat says straight up where he gets his idea that suicide is generally wrong; I can't see that Choire makes his own ideas on that point very clear. As to how slippery this particular slope is (whether permitting suicide in extreme cases will encourage it in other cases), Douthat in his column cited some relevant, but hardly conclusive, pieces of evidence; I can't see that Choire especially addressed any of those.

However, Choire did sneer at Douthat for being a Catholic who is motivated by a wish to control people's bodies, so point to Choire! But he forgot so say "bigoted Catholic."

HiredGoons (#603)

I'm not encouraging it, but I am of the opinion that any adult of sound mind should have the right to end their own life.

HiredGoons (#603)

@HiredGoons: Now, show me an adult of sound mind.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Ross needs to crawl out onto his slippery slope and tumble into oblivion.

GailPink (#9,712)

Jack Kevorkian was a True American Hero.

CatsInBags (#3,656)

Sidebar: I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to watch "How to Die in Oregon."

Aloysius (#1,808)

Another crime where legalization/regulation seems like a good route. I imagine clinics with psychological evaluations, waiting periods. By making someone explain their rationalization beforehand you could potentially have fewer suicides. Plus it could make a great setting for a sequel to Patch Adams.

Rod Trunq@twitter (#12,565)

I agree, Choire, letting people use that kind of logic is a slippery slope.

Because that is what he thinks he looks like?

The great patriarch Kevork is unhappy…

caw_caw (#5,641)

I wish Ross Douthat would stop trying to knock David Brooks off the #1 spot on my list of Times people I'd like to see get eaten by a bear.

Baroness (#273)

@caw_caw "Chunky Bobo" is how he's referred to on some parts of the Information Superhighway.

(Not about his weight, from his truly ghastly account of a fumbling sexual encounter with a poor girl he described as a "chunky Reese Witherspoon". Who he sort of blamed for leading him into temptation. Yes, a nightmarish read.)

Ariadne27 (#13,654)

I'm pretty sure that the photo with this story is from a Party City catalog, and I know someone who actually wore that costume for Halloween.

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