Assisted suicide and illegal immigration

Yesterday’s post about assisted suicide drew a lot of comments. One interesting trend was that people assumed (maybe because of the blog being about religion?) that my skepticism re: assisted suicide and the slippery slope of killing perfectly healthy people was a God thing. I never mentioned religion in the post, nor God, yet the ever complimentary, patient and polite Red Star tried to tie the Almighty in, as did a couple others. The Time article I linked to also didn’t mention God, so maybe readers should consider that one can be against assisted suicide for humanist moral reasons, not only religious ones.

My primary point was this: “… there may come a terrible time not too soon in our fast-moving future where the choice to die (signing a living will saying you don’t want a feeding tube, for instance) becomes subtle pressure on the dying to just hurry up and get it over with: “You had a good life, Daddy, don’t you think? Isn’t now the time to just let go? Let me get you some medicine.” ” That’s not someone saying they want to choose their time to die; it is someone “encouraged” to line up for the death drip by family, friends, societial messages, etc.

Migrant farm workers; credit:
Migrant farm workers; credit:

Should society be allowed to regulate that or stop assisted suicide, especially in the cases of perfectly healthy people? Should we force people to keep living who don’t want to? Thorny questions, but one thing is clear: We are failing as a society if people feel pressured in any way to “choose” assisted suicide because they feel like a burden. The sign of a civilized society is the manner in which we care for those least able to care for themselves. Which brings us to the slippery slope and how illegal immigration could help eliminate the concept of “burden.”

Survival is in our nature (which is why suicide is an aberation and points to a deep malaise and could, on those standards, be considered “wrong”). Like all species, homo sapiens will do anything to survive. We are driven toward life and creativity, and one doesn’t have to believe in God to accept that natural truth or to verify it by looking around at life. However, a longer-living aging population requires a younger generation to care for it in its old age (as opposed to “assist” it on its exit to the Great Beyond), and, as the ever-wise and always thoughtful Jeff Hensley suggested in an e-mail last night, perhaps legalizing illegal immigrants could help.

“What no one is talking about in the discussion of rising health care costs are the demographic reasons for the soon to come doubling of the expense,” Jeff wrote. “It’s the change from the pyramid aging structure to the light bulb pattern, a small base of workers and a large top piece of the drawing representing the huge aging population of baby boomers … a little honest conversation could help us all deal with the need to legalize the immigrants among us, educate them and keep them healthy … so they can be prosperous and productive and make the largest contribution to the economic well-being of our economic life that they can.”

This isn’t just a question of justice, he said, but also of self-preservation – people need to be paying into social security and the health-care system in order for the country to survive.

So, all those aging anti-immigrant folks might want to consider the economic effects of their rhetoric on their own care in the future. Will assisted suicide become the norm for those over 80, whether they want to be “assisted” to leave this life or not, simply because it makes economic sense in an over-burdened (there’s that word again) health care system? Could legalizing and educating the millions of illegal immigrants currently in the country help us deal with the impending health care crisis – at minimum a doubling of costs due ot the aging baby boomer generation –  in a way that proposed reforms cannot? Discuss amongst yourselves – but nicely, or I’ll put you in time out.

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16 thoughts on “Assisted suicide and illegal immigration

  1. Tying suicide and illegal immigration together?
    Should be page views aplenty on this one.

  2. A couple of comments:

    “The sign of a civilized society is the manner in which we care for those least able to care for themselves”.  I agree with this sentiment and, by this standard, we are failing miserably.

    “Survival is in our nature (which is why suicide is an aberation and points to a deep malaise and could, on those standards, be considered “wrong”)”.  I agree with your premise but disagree with the conclusion you draw.  I don’t believe we can apply a universal condemnation upon an action that has a multiplicity of potential origins.  That is to say, not everyone who considers or commits suicide is the same and applying a blanket condemnation to their actions without consideration of the different paths that led from point A to point B is inappropriate.

    1. Dear Leftfield:
      Can you tell what you think the “multiplicity of potential origins” are for suicide?

      1. I can offer some examples; examples that I do not present as all-inclusive.  My best guess (undocumented) is that depression (as defined by the medical profession) is the underlying cause of most suicides in the US.  Depression, however, comes in variety of subtypes with potentially different origins.  There is depression that occurs in people with no previous diagnosis of mental disorder secondary to a loss of some kind; loss of a partner, parent, income, home, health, etc, etc.  There is depression that is chronic and progressive and perhaps genetically determined.  There is bipolar disorder, with episodic depression.  There is depression induced by the use of alcohol or other drugs.  I’m sure there are many others I am not aware of.  

        Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of minimizing deaths caused by suicide.  But I don’t think a blanket condemnation of suicide is useful in that regard.  First of all, it’s arrogant and full of built-in cultural bias to presume that those of us not afflicted have the moral high ground.  Secondly, condemnations of groups generally just leads to an attitude that these people are “not like us” and, thus, are not entitled to the same consideration and respect we give to “folks like us”.

      2. Thanks for providing the clarification, Leftfield, however, your examples all points to depression – which was pretty much my point. While depression can have many causes, it still winds up being depression. And when depression gets really bad, suicide begins to look like the light at the end of a very, very dark tunnel. As a society, we can help people NOT feel burdensome, useless, etc., by reaching out and helping each other more. As for the high moral ground, if I gave the impression that people who commit suicide are not entitled to the same consideration and respect as everyone else, that was unintended and I’m not sure how you got that impression exactly. I will reiterate: My concern (and I’m not alone in it, obviously) is that people will come to feel that they MUST accept suicide to “unburden” those around them. The stats from Oregon, mentioning that a full third of those taking assisted suicide do so because they don’t want to be a burden, bear this fear out. We as families, friends, society, need to do a better job helping people with depression, period. We need to do a better job accepting mental illness for what it is – an illness – and getting it treated so people don’t do the most unnatural thing in nature = kill themselves. As for you thinking that I’m full of “built-in cultural bias” and presuming to have the moral high ground by saying that offing healthy people is questionable in a civilized society – you’re way off base. I have acute awareness of depression and its many faces, as both my mother and my uncle took their own lives.

      3. Well, we have something in common then.  I have lost two first order relatives to suicide and one second order relative to suicide.  Similar experiences, and yet we come to different POV’s on this issue.  Interesting.

        You mentioned your prime concern being that people not commit suicide to avoid being a burden to others.  Here again, I agree that this is shameful, but I would not put the blame on the victim or label their actions as wrong.  No, here I would put the blame directly on our collective failure to provide medical care regardless of ability to pay.  And, by association, I would put the blame also on those who support a system that rations health care based on the ability to pay.  Why is it that there is always money available when the ruling class wants to invade another country, but the same people cry poverty when it comes to caring for the citizens of this country?  Yes, those deaths are deplorable where treatment is available but withheld.  Support from friends and family is important, but is not a substitute for professional treatment.  The “lord” will not heal them.

      4. leftfield: First, I’m sorry for your loss; suicide isn’t considered a violent crime but many consider it violence on those left behind. Second, not that interesting that we can come to different POVs in spite of similar experiences; its just kind of the wonder of life! Third: I’m not blaming the victim. I must really not be making myself clear. Let me try again: If someone wants to kill himself, it is most likely because he is mentally ill (or, secondarily, the risk of pressure from the young/mid-age on the elderly and infirm to accept being “assisted” out of life). Ergo, society – all of us, not the government – fails when we let that person slip into a crack and never come out. WE are to blame. We need to reach out and help. You sound like the folks over at Sojourners or the USCCB in your arguments against war and for the poor! I’m right with you.
        I have never once inferred or suggested that I believe in substituting God for medicine or depending on faith healing. God isn’t here – but he/she has placed US here and WE are the people who are supposed to heal/help/support each other.

        Important example: fifteen years ago, I got a call from a woman who asked if I would PLEASE come talk to a young mother who had postpartum depression. The woman making the call had got my name from a priest who knew I knew alot about depression and various treatments. This young mother was refusing to go to the doctor because some idiot had told her that if she had enough faith God would heal her. (GRRRR). So, I went to this woman’s house, having never met her, but knowing one thing was true: My prior experience and (dare I say it?) suffering could be used for good b/c I could, like no one else who knew her, relate to what was happening to her. Because I was a person of faith, she would trust me, because that is where she was coming from. Because I was a mother who had walked in her very sad shoes, she would trust me, because I knew what was happening to her. And BECAUSE I WAS WILLING TO GO, I could help her. Long story short, I got her to agree to go to a doctor, she called me every day for the next four weeks as she adjusted to medications (which was very difficult to deal with) and when I saw her two months later, I literally didn’t recognize her. She saw me at a bowling alley with my kids and ran up and hugged me and I had no idea who she was – she looked so HAPPY.

        So, if you got a call like that, about a stranger who needed help, I ask you: Would you go? That’s what we need to deal with – people’s relative inability/unwillingness to help each other.

  3. The problem is that once the illegals are legal, they’ll be unemployed because they would have to be paid minimum wage, which is more than they’re being paid now. Also, their employers will have to pay all of the payroll and unemployment insurance taxes that they currently avoid by using illegal workers. Under the harsh light of our current reality, the arguments for legalizing the illegals to support the healthcare of the elderly just falls apart.

    Assisted suicide, I feel, is far more humane, dignified and moral than forcing someone to cling to “life” by stuffing them full of tubes connected to machines that have taken over all of the basic bodily functions. If a person feels that they no longer want to live, for whatever reason, they should have the right to end their own life.

    1. Idonyo: I am not for prolonging life artificially, but assisted suicide is about ending life artificially. There’s the natural way, where you sign a living will that says you don’t want to be brought back with the paddles, don’t want a feeding tube, etc.

  4. Sorry but fail.
    Although you claim no religious motivation, in many other cultures suicide is considered honorable and moral – it is your religious bias that considers it wrong.
    As a consequence you express so much “concern” that people might be “pressured” to end their lives that you are willing to use the force of law to “pressure” those who wish to do so humanely NOT to.
    You can’t have it both ways – either a person has the freedom to live and die as they choose, or you want to use the government to force them to follow your moral code – whether you admit that such a code is based in your religion or not.
    It is no different from “christian” attitudes towards alcohol or birth control or abortion or being gay – basically people who are not content to live their own lives according to their own moral code, but who insist that everyone else live according to their book of instructions.

    1. Well said and my sentiments exactly.  I wish I could make my point as clearly and succinctly.

    2. Patrick: I still disagree. You are right, in Somalia, women kill themselves in honor killings b/c they’ve been raped. Is that right? Is that good? Is that honorable? Or is that PRESSURE? That’s what I’m talking about – pressure. If you want to off yourself, I believe most likely, you are mentally ill. That’s not a religious belief, but a psychological one – the first thing doctors ask people who seem depressed/anxious is: Have you thought of harming yourself or others? There’s a reason for that and it ain’t religious. I don’t think everyone should live by my rules. I’m just bringing up a topic for discussion and I do think it is exceedingly dangerous that we, as a society, might pressure people (handicapped, elderly, chronically ill) to kill themselves so WE, the younger, the healthier, the greedier, can have a “better” life. Yes, there are religious groups that want the world to live only by their rules – that’s theocracy, and I’m completely against it (thus why I live in the USA and why I write about keeping religion out of schools, etc.) But when it involves life and death, maybe we, as a society, need to think about it.

  5. No you aren’t talking about pressure and you dishonestly refuse to acknowledge that – you are talking about a law forcing your belief upon others.
    I pressure people to become vegetarian, since I believe it is both morally and scientifically better for both them and everyone – but I am not trying to pass a law outlawing meat-eating. There is a difference.
    I’ve worked a suicide hotline and many people who are suicidal are indeed suffering from drug or alcohol problems or mental problems – but the anti-suicide laws you advocate have no place in their minds or this debate – they are planning on jumping off a bridge or putting a shotgun in their mouth and tehy don’t care about your law.
    The laws that you are defending only affect people who are NOT mentally ill but who rationally wish to die with dignity for their own reasons.
    You are advocating for a society which forces them to find illegal, and often more painful and undignified, ways to end their lives.
    It is no different from any of the other “laws” which (despite your denials” are intended to enforce “christian morality”.
    You can make alcohol or being gay or birth control or abortion or suicide illegal, but those laws dont prevent people from being gay or having abortions or committing suicide.
    It only criminalizes them and makes their suffering greater.
    If you don’t think everyone should live by your rules, then stop trying to make your rules the law.
    Advocate and persuade all you want to  – but don’t use the law to take away my right to decide for myself how I chose to live, or die.

    1. where did you get the idea that I am advocating a law outlawing assisted suicide? I never said that. I said it is a slippery slope we need to really be looking at. Please show me in my posts the exact words i used that gave you the idea that 1. this is solely a religious issue and 2. a law needs to be passed against it.

  6. Perhaps you should write a little more clearly.
    Some readers might think that if you are “expressing concern” that “”it is a slippery slope we need to really be looking at.” you might be opposing legalization of assisted suicide.
    You state” “Should we force people to keep living who don’t want to? Thorny questions”
    I see nothing “thorny” about such a question, and the fact the you don’t immediately dismiss with moral outrage the idea of forcing people to suffer against their will tells me clearly where you are coming from.
    And whether you are self-aware enough to recognize that it is a “religious Issue” or not, it is. You simply have internalized a religious view of life to such an extent that you aren’t aware of the source of your prejudices.
    If not, then

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