In 1994, Oregon voters passed the Death with Dignity Act, which legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Since then, it has gained traction in other states, who have ruled it constitutional. Is it, in the words of the American Medical Association’s code of ethics, “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer”? Will these laws lead to a slippery slope, where the vulnerable are pressured to choose death and human life is devalued? Or do we need to recognize everyone’s basic right to autonomy, the right to end pain and suffering, and the right to choose to die with dignity? Arguing for the motion is Peter Singer, philosopher and professor of bioethics at Princeton University with Andrew Solomon, author of "Far From the Tree" and professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University. Arguing against the motion is Baroness Ilora Finlay, president of the British Medical Association and member of the House of Lords with Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, professor of medicine and ethics at the University of Chicago and member of the presidential bioethics commission. John Donvan hosts. This conversation was taped on November 13, 2014.
· The right to die as one chooses - and to decide when life is no longer worth living - is integral to human freedom, liberty, and personal autonomy. Neither the government, nor religious institutions, should impose their own conceptions of morality upon individuals who are not harming others.
· As an option in end-of-life care, aid in dying would allow terminally ill, mentally competent individuals to retain dignity and bodily integrity in the face of insurmountable pain and suffering.
· In places where assisted suicide is legal - namely, Oregon and the Netherlands - there is no evidence that the law is being abused, that vulnerable populations are being targeted, or that patients are being coerced by doctors and/or their families to choose death.
· If physician-assisted suicide remains illegal, lesser and more dangerous alternatives - shooting oneself, enlisting doctors or family to break the law, DIY suicide - will spread in its place.
· If assisted suicide is legalized, we will be led down a slippery slope towards pervasive medical killing, endangering vulnerable populations - disabled, elderly, minority, or poor - whose lives are seen as a burden on society.
· If pain is treated effectively, there is no need to treat the patient as if the patient were the "problem to be eliminated."
· Starting with the Hippocratic Oath, medical professional codes prohibit killing, holding the intrinsic value of human life and dignity above all other ethical principles. Assisted suicide erodes the doctor-patient relationship and has grave potential for misuse and abuse.
· Many physicians do not want to have God-like power over others, and they should not be pressured, against their own convictions, to assist in a patient's suicide.