Is the Case “Against” Euthanasia Really Just a Case for Better Policy?

February 24, 2011 at 00:20 (Bioethics, Great Quotes, Politics)

Lately, one of the topics I’ve had occasion to think about quite a bit is the culture-war-tinged set of issues swirling around physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. A couple of months ago, a dear family friend of mine succumbed to lymphoma, and while the specific question of assisted suicide didn’t come into the picture there, end-of-life care inevitably forces everyone to consider what might happen along those lines. In particular, that episode prompted me to revisit the powerful Nietzsche quote I keep on my Facebook profile: “One should die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly.”

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I happened to sit in on a lecture by one Dr. Margaret Cottle, whose unexpectedly polemical presentation really jarred me into revisiting the euthanasia debate with some of the perspective I have gained from my own area of research. For the sake of background, here is an article that quotes Dr. Cottle quite a bit (though I must apologize that I couldn’t find an article from a less upsetting and nasty website). Interestingly, though, the talk that I heard her give didn’t really focus on what one might take to be the deep, in-principle reasons to oppose physician-assisted suicide. Instead, it was largely a broadside on how permissive euthanasia policies have played out where they have been implemented. In Dr. Cottle’s estimation, the impact of such policies has, in every case, been an unmitigated disaster.

Why did her talk give me such pause? Well, because it highlighted an important feature in the topography of this, and other similar, debates.

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February 8, 2011 at 06:48 (Misc)

My paternal grandfather – as wise, thoughtful, and gentle a gentleman as one could wish to look up to – was fond of the proverb “verba volant, scripta manent.” When 16-year-old-me set out on what remains one of the most magical travel experiences of my life, those four words of wisdom prompted me to scribble down as much as I could, and the difference it made stuck with me; words really do have a habit of flying off, and what remains to lend a feeling of continuity to our disjointedly collated experiences is what we’ve written.

In renewed observance of that lesson, I begin this blog in the hopes that I will be able to collect and preserve those measures of my endless daily ruminations that don’t fit into a 140-character box. The ready availability of such boxes also means that – at least, if all goes to plan – I’ll avoid using this space as a means of regurgitating the occurrences and annoyances of my day-to-day existence, or as a platform for sharing interesting material without substantive comment. We’ll see if I can hold myself to a policy of “render unto Zuckerberg what is Zuckerberg’s.” That, I think, is going to be the only content constraint on this little blogging project.

Other than that, this is a blog about my interests. It seemed like a reasonable idea to start it up because I need to practice writing in a (relatively) long-form way about whatever I happen to be mulling over. I suppose it will also be handy to learn the ins and outs of blogging. Maybe some people will even read it – or leave comments! That was largely not the point of my undertaking this venture, but we shall see where it goes. (Hopefully it won’t end up like the other Scripta Manent in the Blogspot-o-verse, abandoned after three pages of posts.)

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the title of this post, that’s the name of a Jewish prayer generally recited when embarking on a new or unusual experience – a way of saying “here goes a  novel undertaking, so let’s mark it off as such and hope it goes well!”

I like to imagine that my grandfather might have said it over his first blog post, if he had ever had the opportunity to write such a thing.

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