January 17, 2006 5 Comments
Apropos my reservations about Murray Rothbard’s comments on “Doctor Death,” FEE has this in today’s mailing:
Oregon Assisted-Suicide Law Upheld by Supreme Court
“The Supreme Court, with Chief Justice John Roberts dissenting, upheld Oregon’s one-of-a-kind physician-assisted suicide law Tuesday, rejecting a Bush administration attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die.” (New York Times, Tuesday)
These disputes arise only because government controls the medical system and access to drugs.
FEE Timely Classic
“Kevorkian, Lies, and Suicide” by Thomas Szasz
I’m a fan of libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz. Given his condemnation of Kevorkian, I should perhaps rethink my impression that Rothbard was jerking his right knee on the subject.
Szasz claims that “assisted suicide” is an oxymoron. No more so than “victimless crime” say I.
My guiding principle on questions of crime is pretty simple: Who’s the victim? Whose rights were violated and how?
Both Rothbard and Szasz would say I have the right to kill myself, which would imply that there is no victim in the voluntary act of suicide. If I contract with someone else to pull the trigger, for whatever reasons, who’s the victim?
Szasz at least implies a possible answer:
Eventually, Kevorkian’s luck ran out and he was sent to prison for his crimes to which he appears to have been driven by his megalomaniacal vanity. Has he killed himself by self-starvation, as he promised he would? No. Either he has changed his mind or he never meant what he said. If he changed his mind, he has availed himself of precisely that option which he denied his victims.
But the problem of changing one’s mind is present in all contracts. It is present in all irreversible acts, whether assisted or not. I can see that as a reason for paternalists to oppose all sorts of voluntary arrangements, but how is relevant to libertarians? I feel disoriented. I just don’t get it.
(My rather stronger reservations about “the Rothbard Crime Program” I’ll write about at a later date.)