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With animals, when they are in considerable pain or suffering from a terminal condition, it's typically considered humane to euthanize them as a way to minimize suffering. However, with humans, the concept of euthanasia is considered highly taboo, and in many places, illegal.

How is it less humane to allow a person suffering physically to choose to end that suffering? Similarly, why with someone who is suffering from a severe mental illness or depression do we force them to keep going? Is it not more humane to allow them to determine their own paths?

Edit: I have a feeling a lot of people are going to have a strong opinion on this, and some of the reactions may be vitriolic, so I implore you to be calm and clinical with your thought processes.

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    "With animals, when they are in considerable pain or suffering from a terminal condition, it's typically considered - BY HUMANS - humane to euthanize them." Ever asked to an animal his opinion ? – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Apr 9 '18 at 6:45
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA animal consent seems crucial. – Dennis Apr 9 '18 at 6:47
  • Another note: Suicide is actually encouraged in some cultures under certain circumstances, notably wartime. For example, many Japanese soldiers committed suicide rather than surrender during WWII. Defeated Roman soldiers sometimes committed suicide, too. – David Blomstrom Apr 9 '18 at 17:26
  • While an interesting question on a certain level and definitely one that invites discussion, I don't think this as currently worded and structured is a good fit for the site. What would a correct answer look like? At best it seems like a correct answer is one that convinces the OP but not based on objective criteria. – virmaior Apr 9 '18 at 22:06
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I think it pretty much boils down to the fact that many people believe that humans have a soul and other animals don't.

There's also the problem of deciding how a terminally ill person (or one who simply wants to be released from suffering) should be dispatched and who should make that decision.

I almost forgot to mention the most important player: the state.

I think it's safe to say that most governments believe the power to take a person's life is the state's, not an individual's. War and capital punishment are state functions, and euthanasia generally is as well (though medical institutions can make some decisions regarding the latter).

On a personal note, I agree with you. I would never want to be kept alive on life support.

P.S. Yikes, I forgot yet another thing...the damage suicide especially can cause to friends and loved ones. Some describe suicide as a supremely selfish act for that very reason, though I would argue that denying one the ability to commit suicide - or criticizing those who have done so - can also be selfish.

Still, suicide is something that should ideally not be done in haste.

  • I dont think people who commit suicide is going to be all that bothered by your criticisms. – Neil Meyer Apr 9 '18 at 5:49
  • @NeilMeyer, right, they don't ask such question as OP. – rus9384 Apr 9 '18 at 6:43
  • Thise who are selfish do not bother that they are selfish. – rus9384 Apr 9 '18 at 12:14
  • Whether or not those who commit suicide are bothered by post-suicide criticism is somewhat irrelevant. I simply suggested that criticism of suicide goes hand-in-hand with its status as a taboo act. Moreover, criticism of people who commit suicide can be a slap in the face for other people who may be suicidal and have no one to help them. – David Blomstrom Apr 9 '18 at 15:42
  • There is no way the other considerations here boil down to having a soul. Opening with that seems to contradict the rest of the post. – jobermark Apr 9 '18 at 16:57
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From one perspective, this aligns exactly with the argument against the death penalty, and it doesn't apply to animals for exactly the reason we do not consider the killing of an animal to be murder.

Death is very final, and mental states and states of health are less so. Just as in the death-penalty argument guilt is not certain, neither, in this case is the suffering. (Nor ultimately is the death we are choosing. We have examples like Anna Quinland, who was euthanized and failed to die, only to recover completely and speak out ardently against euthanasia. And we have many people hideously maimed by failed suicide attempts.)

Obviously suicidality is often the consequence of a mental disease, which may be ameliorated, or naturally pass.

The cost of the loss also does not fall only on the deceased, but on those who had hopes for them, or who depended upon them. So if the avoided outcome is not outright inevitable, they are not the only ones who should make the decision. And we do not know that those making that call by proxy are also seeing things in a way that is fair to the person killed. Who should make that call may be an intractable question.

So the question is how to decide when a current mental state outweighs a potential later one, and another is making the distinction between when someone rationally sees no way out, and when they are mistaken. Most cultures choose not to choose, and await the natural outcome. Our laws and religious codes come from such times. But we now have the ability to maintain life almost indefinitely, so we need a real solution, which is proving very hard to attain.

  • Great discussion of the cost of the loss. By the way, couldn't suicidality be defined as a mental disease? – elliot svensson Apr 9 '18 at 16:21
  • @elliotsvensson No, it is a symptom of a rather large number of them, not necessarily all related to depression. Many men who kill themselves are not depressed, they just fear becoming useless and don't estimate their own value to others very highly. Most people who repeatedly try to kill themselves are disoriented by rage -- they have enough moral wherewithall not to kill someone else, and killing themselves seems like a reasonable way to do so. Some people are ordered to kill by their hallucinations, and choose themselves as the person to use to comply with this. – jobermark Apr 9 '18 at 16:32
  • Would it be true to say that "suicide is always the symptom of one or more mental diseases"? Or put differently, what are non-diseased mental states that result in suicide? – elliot svensson Apr 9 '18 at 16:36
  • @elliotsvensson You could do that by fiat, but no, by modern standards you cannot say that suicidality is never logical. For the same reason homosexuality and transgenderism are no longer mental disorders. A disease causes distress or impedes functionality, interferes with contact with reality, or creates social problems. Say I am dying to give my organs to my child who would otherwise die tomorrow... No call on whether that is lucid. – jobermark Apr 9 '18 at 16:50
  • Fair enough. That was the subject of the Will Smith movie "Seven Pounds"--- which felt like a moral Rorschach test to me. – elliot svensson Apr 9 '18 at 16:54
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Human rights always start with the right to live, which also appears in the right to due process, the right to pursue happiness, the right to property, indeed all other rights.

Human duties always start with the duty to protect another person's life, and probably the most well-known Commandment (of the Ten) is "thou shalt not kill".

Thus it requires two or three supervening claims about morality to come to the conclusion that for some other person, it is better for you to cause that person's death. I strain to come up with an example.

Suppose that death is wished by the individual, who is however incapable of causing him- or herself to die. Still, as that person's friend, traditional friendship demands that you strive to prevent your friend's death, notwithstanding the person's statements, presumed to be in bad judgment. And the Hippocratic Oath demands of doctors that they just don't do it, unless "harm" can be redefined such that a person is "harmed" when you don't kill somebody.

Or suppose that the board of directors of a hospital, doctors group, or insurance provider (or state government) attempts to adopt a practice of medical euthanasia under some stated conditions, they might relieve an individual doctor of the final decision. But this seems to contradict the US Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which grant all persons the right to due process, in which nobody may be killed without being found guilty judicially and so sentenced.

"Pulling the plug" on brain-dead patients is different, in that the patient has been acknowledged by the medical community to be dead in spite of the appearance of certain vital signs. Until this understanding is overturned somehow, there is not a moral dilemma here because the person is dead. The difficulty people feel is a result of our medical technology and the way it prolongs dying.

It seems to me that regarding suicide, there is actually little anybody can do to prevent the suicidal from determining their own path. But there is a strong social and moral resistance from helping such a person down that path, including our moral and practical statements against suicide.

  • But don't people have the ability to waive their rights? If a person is depressed or in physical pain, does anyone have the right to deny them a painless death if that's what they want? – user189728 Apr 9 '18 at 15:35
  • I think the word "deny" is causing a problem here. You are actually asking, "does anyone have the right to refuse to pick up a lethal weapon or chemical and kill a person if that is what they ask for?" – elliot svensson Apr 9 '18 at 15:37
  • That's actually a good point, it reminds me of the argument against socialized healthcare used by Rand Paul. I suppose I mean "deny" in the legalistic sense of euthanasia / assisted suicide – user189728 Apr 9 '18 at 15:39
  • Right. And what I'm saying is that "euthanasia" is not a thing... it's something somebody else does. Likewise with "assisted suicide". – elliot svensson Apr 9 '18 at 15:40
  • So you're saying a medical professional and an individual both consenting to this procedure isn't a thing? – user189728 Apr 9 '18 at 15:41

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