At least in this country and in these times, a sixteen-year-old is not considered to have reached adulthood. It’s not that some kids can’t think and act in a mature fashion, but we have learned that the overwhelming majority cannot. This is why we, say, restrict voting to those eighteen and over, or disallow kids from seeking without parental permission their own medical treatment.
Except for abortions, of course. That sacred right cannot be superseded by mere parental desire. Since this duty of young females to (surgically) remove impediments for leading an unburdened life cannot be questioned, I do not question it.
Instead consider instead this hypothetical. Your sixteen-year-old daughter, fresh off a breakup and therefore distraught, wanders into her GP’s office and says to him (or her!), “Doctor, I find life intolerable.” He (or she!) replies, “Intolerable is that which cannot be tolerated. Therefore, take this pill.” She does, her eyes go wide for second, and she drops dead. The doctor then picks up the corpse and props it into a corner where it, with the others, will be picked up in that evening’s disposal run.
Ha ha! Just kidding!
The doctor would never give her a pill. He’d shoot her up with an overdose of morphine instead. (And if the little girl is pregnant at the time, two birds—to use the British slang, I hope appropriately—could be killed with one stone(d).)
Or so Margo MacDonald Member Scottish Parliament would decree (pdf). She would only stipulate the person doing the killing (i.e. the “doctor”) have a medical degree (so he can know his killing worked; we’d hate to mistakenly dispose of not-yet-dead bodies) and the 16-year-old must “have either a terminal illness or a terminal condition.”
Now it’s unclear if, at least in these early days, the emotional ending of a “relationship” would be considered a “terminal condition”, but given enough time, and the present momentum in moral attitudes, smart money says it will be. Anybody recall the two Belgian brothers who killed themselves because they discovered they were going blind? Blindness wasn’t going to kill them, you see, but it would have made them sad. Therefore a “doctor” killed the pair (at their behest).
What is a “terminal illness”? A forecast, a doctor’s best guess that the course of a disease will kill the patient. However, this isn’t sufficient as a definition because everybody dies. In this sense, everybody suffers from a “terminal” illness. Thus a “real” terminal illness implies a limited time reference. What is “limited”? Six months? A year? Two years? Ten?
Since MacDonald’s proposed law doesn’t say, this trivial detail is presumably to be left to the patient and the “doctor” who would kill his (or her!) patients. Many doctors, and even “doctors”, are notoriously bad at making death-date predictions. We’ve all heard the (true) story of the patient given six months to live, but who go on for years, decades later.
What happens if—nay, when—the “doctor” who kills one of his patients, distraught from the news she has only weeks to live and therefore deciding it intolerable to linger, later discovers he read the wrong chart, or had it upside down? Oops. Well, what’s a mistakenly killed person or two against progress?
Plus, these kinds of inevitable mistakes will be a boon to the legal industry. Just wait for the first “doctor” who is discovered to be a beneficiary of his ex-“patient”. I can’t wait to see the New York Post headlines!
No law has ever stood in the way of a determined person killing herself. This action, in English, is called suicide, an obvious point which nevertheless must be made, because that word defines a singular, personal act. One cannot commit suicide except on oneself. In particular, one cannot assist in a suicide except unknowingly—say, the hardware salesman who unwittingly sells a man a plastic bag which the man later uses to asphyxiate himself.
One can hand Romeo his poison, but if one does so knowing it is poison and is reasonably sure of Romeo’s intent, then one has not provided assistance but is complicit in an act of homicide. Far better then to call “assisted suicide” laws what they really are. I suggest “doctors legally killing their patients” laws.
Update MacDonald has been kind enough to post public responses to the proposed law on her web page. The laughs start with the very first one. One Guy Johnstone wrote:
Rather than see an animal suffer, the kindest thing is to put it to sleep.
Why, therefore, should we not offer the same dignity & understanding to our loved ones…
Yes. Humans put down in the same manner as rabid dogs. Well, it’s for their own good.