Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Changing Mores, Slippery Slope or Both?

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Disablity advocated do not favor assisted suicide. Image by Marcel Oosterwijk

Disablity advocated do not favor assisted suicide. Image by Marcel Oosterwijk.

The laws Mortier refers to are societal mores, deeply held normative beliefs and actions underwritten by values. Mores are important in keeping the fabric of society from unfraying.  Sociologist William Graham Sumner cautioned, “It is a category in which custom produces continuity, coherence, and consistency, so that the word “structure” may properly be applied to the fabric of relations and prescribed positions with which societal functions are permanently connected.”  Suicide has been considered taboo in Western society.  Complying with a request to assist someone with suicide was doubly taboo.  Are we unraveling?

Assisted Suicide: Implications for the Disabled

Disability advocates do not tend to favor assisted suicide. For example, Second Thoughts, a website subtitled “People with Disabilities Opposing Legalization of Assisted Suicide” explains why the proposed 2012 Massachusetts law was a bad idea.

Among the reasons listed to reject the Massachusetts proposal was the “deadly mix” of health care  cost containment leading to a profit motive, the fact that laws already allow for living wills, refusal of treatment and palliative care, and the lack of safeguards to avoid the procedure’s abuse. The website sees the measure as discriminatory, noting the aged and disabled appear to be targeted as candidates for euthanasia rather than suicide prevention campaigns.

Casting Aside Taboos

Changes in society to enable euthanasia and assisted suicide could have wide-reaching effects. As humans, we need to carefully weigh the consequences of casting aside long held taboos.

Sources:

Euthanasia.com. Euthansia Pros and Cons. (2013). Accessed February 5, 2013.

Mortier, T. How My Mother Died. (2013). Mercator.com. (Reprinted from original publication in the Belgian medical journal Artsenkrant.) Accessed February 5, 2013.

Second Thoughts. MASSACHUSETTS HAS SECOND THOUGHTS ON ASSISTED SUICIDE. (2013). Second Thoughts(2013) Accessed February 5, 2013.

Sumner, William Graham. Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals. (2008).   Project Gutenberg.  Accessed February 5, 2013.

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