Assisted suicide should be illegal.
"Assisted suicide" refers to "the act of deliberately assisting another person to kill themselves."
== A Definitional Note ==
The term "assisted suicide" is something of a misnomer. There's no crime called "assisted suicide." I do not argue a legal penalty for patients who seek help in dying. The crime at issue is assisting suicide, and it's targeted solely at those who help another commit suicide. The legal right sought by proponents is the right to assist someone in killing themselves without suffering adverse legal consequences. That said, I'll still use "assisted suicide" as a short-hand description for the crime/right, as a way of deferring to common usage.
The term "assisted suicide" is also a misnomer in the sense that it's often confused with "euthanasia." In euthanasia, the doctor kills the patient. In assisted suicide, the doctor assists but the patient is the final causal actor in his or her own death. I don't think the difference will matter much for this debate -- in both, the doctor intentionally helps the patient end his or her life -- but extra clarification always helps.
== Rules ==
1. No forfeits
2. Sources must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. No "kritiks" of the topic (i.e. arguments that challenge an assumption in the resolution)
7. No semantics; debaters will adhere to the common/average understanding of the topic
8. The burden of proof is shared
9. First round is for acceptance only
10. Violation of any rules is an automatic loss
Thanks for accepting the debate, Whiteflame.
I'm a liberal, and an atheist, so my approach to assisted suicide isn't religious. I'm gonna argue that assisted suicide erodes basic rights, including equality and freedom. I then conclude with a somewhat libertarian alternative: make deadly drugs freely available to the public.
The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection of the law to all people. This guarantee is replicated in Article 14 of the European Convention and in the constitutions and declarations of many other countries. We treat people with equal respect because of their status as human beings, without regard to their looks, gender, race, creed, or any other incidental trait. This commitment to human equality is grounded on the belief that all human beings innately have dignity and are worthy of respect.
Legalizing assisted suicide undermines human equality in two ways. First, limiting assisted suicide to certain people -- say, the terminallly ill -- sends a message that certain people are expendable and others aren't. In effect, allowing suicide for some people in certain conditions cheapens the existence of all under those conditions. This is especially worrisome as we expand the categories of people who can request assisted suicides (e.g. saying the disabled should have the right to assisted suicide implies that the disabled live an inferior and expendable life).
Second, legalizing assisted suicide suggests that human life only has instrumental value. But the only way to justify equal protection is by recognizing the inherent value of human life. If human life only has value based on its instrumental worth to society, a critical rationale for equal protection drops away. Why treat people with equal respect if we don't really believe that they're equal? If humans only have value based on their instrumental worth to society, why extend equal protection to those with low IQs? the mentally disabled? the autistic? infants with Down's syndrome? Alzheimer's patients?
First, legalizing assisted suicide blurs the line between the right to refuse treatment and requesting an assisted suicide. The key distinction is intent. A doctor who assists suicide primarily intends to cause death; a doctor who withdraws care only intends to respect his patient's wishes. Doctors decide whether to administer an assisted suicide; patients decide whether to refuse treatment. If assisted suicide is legal, the line between these two isn't so clear anymore, because the doctor might interpret withdrawal as the flipside of causing death. The effect in both is the same: death. So how can a doctor know whether he or she is assisting suicide or withdrawing care? This undermines the right to refuse, because doctors acquire power over patients in deciding whether to assist suicide.
Second, assisted suicide drowns our privacy in safeguards, because assisted suicide requires a transparent process to check for abuse. The deathbed -- like the bedroom -- should remain free from state intrusion. Death isn't a medical procedure that needs monitoring; it's a time for intimacy, family, close friends, personal goodbyes, forgiveness, humility, and reflection. If assisted suicide were legal, anyone at the deathbed would need to justify being there so that ulterior motives could be crossed off. The deathbed scene would need to be recorded. Dying would become a public event. The result is less privacy and less freedom about our own deaths.
Third, if human life only has instrumental value (which it must to justify assisted suicide), what's to stop non-consensual euthanasia? This is precisely what happened in the Netherlands: after legalizing assisted suicide for the terminally ill, the Netherlands legalized non-consensual euthanasia a few years later. This is one of those things where a slippery slope has been proven by the evidence (e.g. the Netherlands). Allowing assisted suicide quickly leads to non-consensual euthanasia, because both are grounded on the same justification (i.e. the instrumental value of life). Under that logic, if the value of a life is less than the costs of medical care, then physicians arguably would have a moral obligation to kill patients without their consent.
First, there's a real danger of abuse without sufficient safeguards. And even with safeguards, there's still a possibility for abuse. There's also the risk of doctors mistakenly killing persons without their consent, as well as the risk that the patient is being coerced by others (e.g. family members).
Second, there's a danger about the message that assisted suicide sends. Once early death becomes a medical option for some people (e.g. the terminally ill), it sends a message that early death is respectable for others too (e.g. the disabled, depressed, or those merely tired of life). The fear lies in extending the categories of people for whom assisted suicide is available. If assisted suicide is available to everyone, it pre-approves all suicides. Eventually, this might even reduce interference with suicide attempts. Why interfere with a suicide attempt if the state has already pre-approved it? That's a scary prospect considering that 95% of suicide attempts don't attempt suicide again, because they're often just a cry for help.
Third, the possibility of discrimination against minorities. This fear is also real. Consider: (1) minority cancer patients are three times less likely that nonminoirty patients to receive adequate palliative care; (2) blacks are 3.5 times more likely than whites to have one of their limbs amputated; (3) minorities receive worse AIDS treatment. There's no reason this wouldn't translate to assisted suicide. In fact, many elderly Dutch patients insist on written contracts assuring against non-consensual euthanasia before they will admit themselves to hospitals. 
Legalizing assisted suicide corrupts the medical profession. First, it invalidates the Hippocratic Oath, the standard principle for medical ethics. Assisted suicide intentionally doesn't heal, and it intentionally does harm, completely violating the oath.
Second, assisted suicide transforms the role of doctors. Patients can already commit suicide unaided; they don't need doctors to commit suicide. The only thing that doctors do when they assist a suicide is santify the suicide. Doctors don't actually perform anything remotely medical; they certainly don't heal. Instead, when doctors assist suicide, they perform a moral function. In effect, doctors become priests, granting absolution for committing suicide. This isn't a role that doctors should have; the medical profession shouldn't be in the business of santifying suicides. That's something better left to religious or moral institutions.
Third, allowing assisted suicide could disincentivize the research and development of better medical care (i.e. why improve painkillers for those suffering if assisted suicide is a cheaper option?). This slope could even disincentivize cures for diseases, since it'll be cheaper to simply kill people off.
Most suicides are hurtful to those left behind. But sometimes, suicide is inspirational, transcendent, and the most beautiful and awe-inspiring act. For instance, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in protest after local officials humiliated him and confiscated his wares. He became the "Hero of Tunisia" and "Person of the Year" in Time magazine. His suicide led to riots and protests just hours after, and it culminated in the "Arab Spring," which ultimately led to the removal of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.  A bad suicide makes the world worse; a good one makes it better.
A medical treatment isn't good or bad; it's neutral. And that is what legalizing assisted suicide does: it reduces suicide to a medical choice. The question "to be or not to be" becomes a medical rather than moral question. Legalization thus removes suicide from our scope of judgment, and in doing so, it deprives suicide of its dramatic power and meaning.
Speaking about the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt famously said that it's the refusal to judge that creates evil. Judgment gives suicide its social power, its ability to make the world a better place. Suicide shouldn't be a neutral act. If we don't judge suicide -- as either good or bad -- then the non-existence of another human being means nothing at all. If suicide is just a medical treatment, there's no room for forgiveness, because there's no room to judge the suicide as good or bad. And if suicide is just a medical treatment, then how can we convince the lovelorn twenty-year old that life is worth it? Or encourage the disabled to continue living?
Assisted suicide undermines equality, liberty, medical care, and the power of suicide. There's also a host of potential unintended consequences. Taken together, all of these points make a compelling case that assisted suicide should remain illegal. And, keep in mind that suicide is something people can do without assistance, so the potential harms from assisted suicide simply aren't worth the risk. That said, I'd like to propose an alternative to assisted suicide: make deadly drugs available to the public, albeit with warnings about what ingesting them will do and perhaps even a waiting period. This solution removes any need for assisted suicide. The few who take deadly drugs wouldn't need the blessing of a doctor, and for those anxious about the way that they'll die, a vial sitting on a shelf might play a reassuring role and help quell their anxiety. Doctor's wouldn't become prists. There'd be no risk of abuse. And most importantly, suicides would take all moral responsibility for their actions; there'd be no intent to cause another human being's death.
 The Future of Assisted Suicide, Neil Gorsuch
1. The Case
The case is vague. What company would produce and distribute these drugs? No company is going to want to have their name associated with the spread of suicide meds. How would distribution work? What company would want to stock medication meant to kill its customers? Again, reputation matters. Pro seems to be advocating for an over-the-counter (OTC) drug, but with no regulation beyond a label and maybe a waiting period. What regulatory agency would approve this, in any country? Laws against suicide would have to be ignored, and people would understandably mistrust a government supporting the distribution of deadly meds and disregarding its own laws.
Further, what is preventing someone from committing suicide without this? Pro is merely providing another means by which these individuals can commit suicide. They already have OTC drugs that are commonly used for the purpose. The differences are intended function and less certainty of death. Pro will have to explain how his case provides any unique benefit.
What is clear is that Pro is not legalizing suicide. He's making deadly drugs available, but not the action they facilitate. Thus, he's promoting an illegal act by providing widespread access to a drug that no one is legally allowed to use.
Pro is also increasing the visibility of suicide. These drugs would presumably be widely available, exposing people to it every time they step into a drug store. That sort of availability makes every store that stocks it a reminder that suicide is just a small purchase away.
So, what's the harm?
First, Pro hasn't included any safeguards preventing those with mental disorders from getting these drugs. These people can acquire and use them, cutting their lives tragically short while they are incapable of informed consent. Assisted suicide acts has those safeguards. A doctor must obtain informed consent in order to prescribe medication. A pharmacist at the local CVS has no such duty with OTC meds. Assisted suicide also results in psychological evaluations that can help patients access effective mental health services and treatment. For those hiding mental illness, it opens the eyes of their doctors and families, giving them a network of support and knowledge of treatment options. When patients are mentally competent, the discussion that results from pursuing assisted suicide can address feelings of guilt and recrimination. These cannot be addressed if a person pursues suicide privately.
Second, the drugs become a temptation. Regular exposure to that temptation can lead many to suicide when things seem at their worst. Whether they purchase it as a security blanket or simply walk by the Wallgreens every day to know that it's there, these people aren't always going to be stable. They'll have bad days, and be tempted when they do. Pro is allowing short-term temptations to turn into actual suicides.
Third, Pro's system would allows anyone to acquire these drugs, dramatically increasing their spread without a means to monitor their ownership/usage. How can we determine that the person who took the medication did so knowingly? Societies have two choices: either every case where suicide occurs ends in a murder investigation, which turns Pro's privacy point, or countless murders get treated as suicides, allowing murderers to escape justice and kill again.
2. Unintended Consequences
Pro talks about weak safeguards, but uses practically none in his case. At least assisted suicide (in my case) requires patients to make an appointment, discuss their decision with their doctor, get a psychological evaluation, and those appointments plus any waiting periods create a built in wait time (no "perhaps" here) during which they can change their mind. Pro's case uses none of these.
Any risk of harm here is writ large in Pro's case. He allows anyone to acquire these medications, which means anyone can use them. When these drugs adorn store shelves and medicine cabinets, there's almost no barrier to their acquisition or use, and no means to prevent coercion by any other figure. A majority of doctors in the U.S. support assisted suicide, and just because they can't prescribe these OTC drugs doesn't mean they wouldn't recommend them. Recommendations aren't regulated and it's much harder to hold physicians accountable for them. Governments endorsing the spread of a suicide medication sends a much stronger "message that early death is respectable", not to mention "pre-approv[ing] all suicides", than a tightly regulated system of assited suicide. But what's truly baffling is this statement:
"That's a scary prospect considering that 95% of suicide attempts don't attempt suicide again, because they're often just a cry for help."
Remember, Pro is giving these people a very effective means to commit suicide. All of these "attempts" would become successess, which means that these cries for help are going to become death notes. This isn't a small number " the CDC estimates that for every successful suicide attempt, there are 25 that are unsuccessful. That amounts to almost 1,000,000 people who are far more likely to succeed with their attempts annually. And that's just in the U.S.! It also assumes that Pro's plan doesn't increase the number of attempts, which, as I explained earlier, it is likely to do so.
Pro hasn't shown any evidence that these minority harms translate to assisted suicide, nor does he impact them if they do.
The view that it is intentionally harmful to give specifically requested drugs to fully consenting patients is absurd; continuing to treat ineffectively, often causing/prolonging/allowing further suffering is far more harmful and deliberate.
The role of doctors is complex. It is the duty of doctors to support patient autonomy and self-determination, but a large part of those functions is ensuring that their patients can give informed consent. Pro's plan ensures that many patients will acquire deadly medication without that consent, whether as a result of diminished rational capacity or coercion. Doctors must also consider beneficence and non-maleficence in their decisions for their patients, both of which are achieved by minimizing suffering.
As for R&D, individual doctors making the rare choice to prescribe this medication isn't going to change the reality of what suicide means for the vast majority of people. However, a government facilitarting the distribution of these drugs for easy acquisition definitely changes the focus of how funds are used, both by the population at larger and the government itself.
Pro shows a single instance in which it was used for a social message (that notably involved a much flashier form of suicide), but never clarifies why suicide must retain greater meaning. Why can't a message like this take other forms, like public protest? Pro hasn't stated any impact for lost meaning, nor has he explained how a medical choice necessarily has less meaning beyond this assertion of neutrality. A beneficial outcome for a patient is good, a hrmful one is bad. The messages that accompany such a decision can have value, too.
But this whole point is non-unique. Suicide is a medical choice, whether it's made following conference with a doctor or by personal choice. Changing the means by which that choice is made possible (a doctor's prescription or an OTC drug) doesn't change the reality of its medical nature, just as performing surgery on oneself instead of paying a doctor to do it doesn't alter what surgery fundamentally is. If that nature makes it harder for some people to decide that life's worth living, then both of our cases suffer that harm.
Pro conflates assisted suicide and euthanasia. Remember from Pro's R1 clarification: "the patient is the final causal actor in his or her own death." Euthanasia requires physician administration of deadly medication at the patient's request. Assisted suicide is a two-way street " the doctor must prescribe the medication, allowing the patient the capacity to administer it. Thus, a doctor cannot "mistakenly kill persons without their consent," as Pro claimed earlier. Nor does it lead to non-consensual euthanasia, as assisted suicide makes the patient the administrator. Doctors don't have to see the difference between withdrawing care and assisting suicide Both are based on the wishes of the patient, and both of which embody the right to refuse/consent. The doctor can do nothing, in either instance, without the refusal/consent of the patient or their family. The line between the two is, thus, drawn by the the consenting party.
Death doesn't need to be a public event. Assisted suicide doesn't necessitate a deathbed viewing, but it is certainly still safer without this than Pro's own plan.
Life doesn't have instrumental value, but life experience does. That value can be based on objective evaluations of circumstances; in this case, suffering and imminent death. The problem with Pro's reasoning is that he's saying society uses assisted suicide to apply that value, yet it is entirely personal and applied through their informed consent. The fact that society facilitates that decision doesn't mean that it's treating them as dispensible, certainly not any more so in my case than in Pro's.
Assisted suicide sends no message of expendability " again, these are consenting patients whose lives are almost certainly nearing their end. It's not based on someone else's evaluation of their worth. Recognizing the objective differences between the medical and psychological realities of these patients doesn't cheapen anyone's existence; it recognizes that these patients so thoroughly lack control over their circumstances that they should be allowed a means to acquire it.
Over to you, Pro.
Note: the status quo = assisted suicide is illegal and deadly drugs aren't available.
(1) This debate isn't about making deadly drugs freely available to the public. The debate is about assisted suicide. I argued two potential alternatives to assisted suicide: (1) the status quo, and (2) making deadly drugs available. However, I only need to show that one of these options is better; I don't need to show that both are better. I win as long as one of these options is preferable to legalizing assisted suicide. Con seems to think my entire case is that deadly drugs should be available to the public. But that's only one contention among others. I can drop "deadly drugs" and still win through my other contentions. Con doesn't attack the status quo at all. Don't punish me for Con's misunderstanding; extend the full impact of all dropped contentions.
(2) The burden of proof is shared. To win, Con has to make out a case for legalizing assisted suicide, which Con hasn't done at all. Instead, Con spent the entirety of Round 2 trying to refute my arguments. But in a debate, unlike football, the best offense isn't a good defense. When the burden of proof is shared, refutations alone aren't enough; even if Con refutes everything I argue, Con can't do better than a tie. Put simply, Con's lack of offense means he cannot win this debate. And at this point, it'd be abusive for Con to offer a case, because it gives me less rounds to refute his arguments than he has to refute mine.
(1) Con says life has no value. Instead, only "life experience" has value; the better the life experience, the greater the value of preserving it. Con also says this "value can be based on objective evaluations." Don't let Con muddle the issue: this is the same as saying life only has instrumental value (i.e. life only derives value externally instead of having instrinsic value). This view -- when taken to its logical conclusion -- leads not only to the collapse of equal protection (why treat people equally if they're not actually equal?) but also to infanticide (why protect infants if they've acquired no value?) and murder (if someone's life experience isn't valuable enough, there's no reason we can't kill them).
(2) Con's criteria is completely arbitrary. How do we decide when someone's "life experience" means their life isn't worth preserving anymore? when they have 12 months to live? 6 months? how much suffering? what about the disabled? infants with Down's syndrome? those with Alzheimers? Is their "life experience" valuable enough to merit preservation?
(3) Con mistakes the nature of informed consent. If blacks could become slaves through informed consent but whites couldn't, we'd still say the law undermines equal protection, because it protects the freedom of whites but not blacks. So too with assisted suicide. Assisted suicide protects the life of everyone but the terminally ill. Informed consent doesn't change that fact, because only the terminally ill are allowed to consent. If consent justifies murder (and that's what Con's arguing), then why limit assisted suicide to the terminally ill? Con's position is inconsistent. When taken to its logical end, Con's analysis says we should allow any murder where victims consent. The law doesn't and shouldn't allow this.
(1) Con doesn't dispute the risk of abuse in assisted suicide. Extend this point.
(2) Con doesn't dispute that there's a risk in expanding the categories for whom assisted suicide is available. Nor does Con dispute that assisted suicide would reduce interference with suicide attempts. Extend both these points.
(3) Con says I haven't shown evidence that minority harms translate to assisted suicide. Evidence isn't necessary, because I'm making an analytic argument, not an empirical one. Con admits that minorities receive worse palliative care than nonminorities. Lack of adequate palliative care means more suffering, and more suffering means higher likelihood of assisted suicide. Remember, blacks are 3.5 times more likely than whites to have their limbs amputated, and there's no reason this wouldn't translate to assisted suicide, given the connection between palliative care, suffering, and assisted suicide. Elderly Dutch patients insist on written contracts against involuntary euthanasia, which suggests potential discrimination against the elderly. Con says there's no impact; I disagree. The law shouldn't create conditions that disenfranchise certain groups of people for arbitrary reasons.
(1) Con drops the right to refuse. If assisted suicide is legal, and a patient requests that a doctor pull the plug, the doctor could respond: "I refuse to assist your suicide." This can happen because assisted suicide empowers doctors, not patients. Under an assisted suicide regime, doctors acquire a right to kill patients and a right to refuse killing patients. Doctors aren't obligated to assist suicide. Assisted suicide thus blurs the line between refusing treatment and requesting an assisted suicide, as both are just two sides of the same coin (both lead to death). The result is less control over our own bodies. Extend this argument.
(2) Con misunderstands my *involuntary euthanasia* argument. The point is that assisted suicide creates a slippery slope that leads to involuntary euthanasia. I argue the slope is theoretically likely and an empirical reality. Theoretically, assisted suicide is premised on the notion of relieving suffering (Con admits this point); this logic justifies involuntary euthanasia as a means to end suffering. Empirically, the Netherlands legalized involuntary euthanasia after it legalized assisted suicide, proving the slope isn't just probable but also real.
(3) Assisted suicide requires state intrusion into death and the deathbed to check for abuse (and Con admits the risk of abuse). Private suicides don't require any state intrusion into our freedoms; they're private by their nature.
(1) Con doesn't address my argument that assisted suicide transforms the role of doctors. In effect, assisted suicide turns doctors into priests who sanctify suicide (i.e. grant patients moral absolution for committing suicide). Assisting suicide doesn't prevent or cure disease; it intentionally causes death. Doctors shouldn't be recommending suicide; as I said before, that's something better left to moral or religious institutions. The problem is that assisted suicide places some moral responsibility with doctors. The law (and medical profession) should prefer a legal regime where moral responsibility for a suicide is placed fully on the individual rather than the doctor.
(2) If assisted suicide is legal, demand for pain medication will decrease. A decreasing demand for pain medication could disincentivize R&D -- the numbers are unclear but this is certainly a possibility to be wary of.
Note: suicide is (and should be) legal.
Con says suicide should be a medical treatment no more appropriate to moral judgement than a routine surgery. But that mistakes the nature of suicide. Suicide hasn't ever been a medical treatment and it shouldn't be; for most of history, suicide was a sin. Doctors shouldn't be allowed to recommend or preapprove a suicide because doctors don't know what happens after death. Suicide is beyond their scope of expertise. As for the effect on those left behind, that's a purely moral issue. When we judge suicide, it takes on meaning. Romeo and Juliet proved their love. Bouazizi's anger changed the Middle East; it reflected the value we place on life by shocking nations into action. Yes, social messages can be sent through other means, but that's irrelevant. The impact is the meaning we give suicide and life, our ability to judge (and forgive) suicide after-the-fact, and the message that pre-approving suicide sends about the value of human life.
(1) There are two differences between assisted suicide and my proposal. First, assisted suicide empowers doctors; my proposal empowers individuals. Second, assisted suicide limits drugs to the terminally ill; my proposal doesn't. In my proposal, you'd still need to give informed consent, which would entail completing a psychological exam showing mental competence. Companies already make the drugs (it's the same stuff used in assisted suicide), so practicalities aren't gonna be an issue. Smart regulations solve all problems that Con raises.
The net benefits to my proposal are: (1) more equality; (2) more freedom; (3) more deathbed privacy; (4) no slope to involuntary euthanasia; (5) no risk of abuse; (6) no harm to minorities; (7) no corruption of doctors; (8) no loss of meaning to suicide; and (9) less suicides. There's less suicides because doctors can't recommend suicides under my proposal. When doctors can recommend suicide, the suicide rate increases.
(2) What are the harms? There are none. The drugs won't increase suicide rates, because anyone can already commit suicide with a little determination. The difficulty in suicide isn't the physical means; the difficulty is the will and determination it takes to kill oneself. Drugs don't affect our will and determination. And, studies show that restricting methods of suicide has no effect on the suicide rate.  Other studies show that impulsive suicides almost never involve drugs.  As for suicide attempts, there's no indication that those who attempt suicide as a cry for help would use these drugs. And if they did, they'd have to undergo a psychological evaluation and give informed consent, which means there'd be opportunity to interfere before the attempt. So, both theoretically and empirically, my proposal won't increase the suicide rate. Finally, note that every suicide is already a potential murder investigation. My proposal doesn't change that. Nor does it affect deathbed privacy; it only affects privacy after-the-fact, which is a much lower impact than deathbed privacy.
OV1: If Pro wanted to discuss assisted suicide alone, he could have argued for the status quo from the start. When Pro presented an alternative, he changed the discourse. As a result, what we're comparing is the net benefits of assisted suicide vs. increased availability of deadly meds. That's the debate, and it's still topical, even if Pro wanted something else.
On the running two alternatives point, four responses:
1) Pro continues to defend his case, so hold him accountable for it.
2) Pro made it clear in his opening round that he was proposing an alternative. A single alternative. The words “status quo” don't even appear in R2. He can't just add a case if he feels like it.
3) Pro expects me to hold to my case as given (which I presented in various rebuttals), even saying that it would be abusive for me to now present a case structure. If I must hold to what I said in R2, he must as well.
4) It is not at all fair, educational or reasonable to force me to argue against two diametrically opposed cases while my opponent need only engage one. I must hold to a single, consistent case. So must he.
OV2: Rebuttal can be offensive and can win an equal burdens debate. I'm baffled that Pro is talking about the potential of abuse from me when he's engaged in actual abuse by presenting a double case and adding new planks to his plan. Pro expands his case in an attempt to avoid my harms, adding a psych exam and nebulous “smart regulations”. If abuse is the basis for any vote, it should be against Pro.
I. The Case
1) Still vague. Pro says that companies already make these drugs, but doesn't respond to the fact that they're not currently available on store shelves. That's a huge increase in negative visibility. He doesn't address the realities of distribution, opposition from regulatory agencies, or the fact that no company is going to want to stock these. How can these drugs be OTC if they require evaluation?
2) Pro's case is now non-topical. He's legalizing assisted suicide, and just changing who is assisting. In my case, it's the physician and psychologist. In his, it's the psychologist (someone needs to do the psych evaluation) and the government. So either you accept his case expansion and vote him down for being non-topical, or dismiss it and accept my mental illness and informed consent points. You can also vote him down here because these expansions turn most of his impacts by requiring governmental regulation of individual actions on top of psych review.
3) Pro drops my point that many of those with mental illness hide that illness from doctors and families. Some of these will commit suicide without help. Assisted suicide requires that doctors and thus families find out about this illness and make it possible to address it. These suicides apply to all of Pro's cases.
4) Extend that there are almost a million people in the U.S. alone who try to commit suicide, fail, and thus can get the help they need. Pro's  only evaluates what happened in Finland after the availability of a single method of suicide was reduced. Pro's  actually contradicts this, showing that reduction of OTC drugs commonly used for suicide to sub-lethal quantities reduced successes heavily. Also, we're talking about an addition of a method used solely for the purpose, which is entirely different. However, even if it doesn't increase suicide rates, Pro's method makes attempts into certainties. Pro's  actually supports this, showing that those trying to commit suicide turn to less effective means when others are restricted. It even says “Self poisoning is...often impulsive.” And when the drug being taken is lethal by design (and therefore more toxic and rapid), that precludes medical intervention, making more suicides successful. Pro's argument that most won't use this assumes that every single attempted suicide is solely to garner attention. Psych evaluation reduces incidence of suicide without consent, but it's never going to be as effective as that plus physician visits, consultations, and built-in wait times that come with my case.
5) Even assuming that Pro's tests are effective, my temptation argument still applies. Regular proximity to a drug specifically meant to facilitate suicide creates a desire, and being told “no” won't remove that temptation – it will merely redirect them to other means.
6) Extend that a government allowing mass distribution of suicide drugs is far more harmful than the rare incidence of assisted suicide. He drops that recommendations aren't regulated like prescriptions, leading to increased abuse by doctors.
7) Extend my murder investigations argument. Pro mishandles it. I'm saying that suicide becomes impossible to distinguish from murder. How do you determine if someone took one of these drugs on purpose or by the designs of someone else? He provides no means by which to do so, and therefore provides the means to murder without detection. He's also admitting that every suicide is investigated, which means that the loss to privacy is non-unique.
II. Unintended Consequences
Assisted suicide comes with acceptable risks. Recognizing the right of the dying to personally end their suffering is worth those risks.
I made clear what the categories are for assisted suicide. Merely presenting a slippery slope without links to my case doesn't explain how those catories expand.
If the minority harm is inadequate palliative care and increased amputations, then those are what need to be addressed. Providing access to assisted suicide addresses the pain society has caused better than status quo without imposing any decision. If the concern is that a gatekeeper is somehow imposing, then Pro's case expansion is giving them more reason to worry, as their suicides would now have to be approved by both their doctor and government. If gatekeepers are effectively pre-approving suicide, then Pro's engaging in it on a government-wide basis.
Pro ignores my responses on the role of doctors: the lack of assisted suicide undermines the role of doctors by requiring that they cause/prolong further suffering and ignore patient pleas to end that suffering. Remember, doctors have a duty to minimize suffering.
Doctors are solely assessing patient demand and eligibility for suicide. There's no recommendation involved here; the patient requests, the doctor either allows or does not allow them access. This is a medical and ethical issue, one that must be handled by doctors.
As for R&D, Pro still isn't explaining how is such a small proportion of the population that receives assisted suicide altering the entire landscape of pain medication. Pro's case is far more likely to have this affect suicide as a result of broad accessibility.
The legality of suicide is complex. Pro is requiring that any laws that address it be ignored. Extend my point about mistrust – it applies even when suicide is legal.
I said suicide was medical, not a medical treatment. If treatments are completely failing a person, then suicide becomes an appropriate possibility. It doesn't matter what happens after death, or how the doctor perceives it, since an end to life is what's being decided and not an afterlife.
Pro drops his argument about medical aspects being neutral. Extend my point that a beneficial outcome for a patient is a net good, and that their choice of suicide can be that beneficial outcome.
Pro doesn't explain why suicide provides any form of unique message that cannot be given by other means (e.g. protest). That means any impact is still non-unique. He doesn't explain how assisted suicide damages the meaning of suicide and life, nor does he explain how his case gives them better meaning.
The right to refuse is integral to my case. Pro's example of a doctor pulling the plug once again conflates assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. Assisted suicide requires that the patient have the capacity to administer medication. As a result, both “rights” Pro states are wrong. Doctors are not administering the medication or even recommending it, and therefore never engaged in killing. The wishes and actions of the patient are paramount. The doctor can do nothing without the refusal/consent of the patient. The line between withdrawing care and assisted suicide is, thus, drawn by the patient. Pro drops this.
The Netherlands example still doesn't establish a link between involuntary euthanasia and assisted suicide; they legalized voluntary euthanasia first. If I'm not empowering doctors to end lives via their actions directly, then they have no legal means for this expansion. “Logic” doesn't surmount basic legal restrictions.
Let me put this clearly: intrusion into death and the deathbed are not part of my case. Pro has yet to show how a lack of intrusion can lead to abuse.
Pro's twisting my words. I said that life has no instrumental value, not that it has no value. It has inherent value. It's unclear how Pro gets from some lives lack of instrumental value to the collapse of equal protection, infanticide and murder. The inherent value of life ensures that none of these are justified.
Pro continues to distort my case. I never said that informed consent should be the only standard by which we decide who should be allowed to receive assisted suicide. And it's not murder either (making Pro's newest slippery slope nonsensical), nor is it inconsistent. It's the legal capacity to end one's suffering when death is in the near future.
It's absurd that Pro's attacking my case for vagueness considering his own. The standards are clear: nearing the end of life, undergoing suffering, and capable of informed consent and self-administration. None of these are arbitrary, meaning the law itself isn't arbitrary. Any specifics beyond those standards are decided between a doctor and patient, and those decisions are informed and individual.
== What's this debate about? ==
The resolution is "assisted suicide should be illegal," not "assisted suicide vs deadly drugs." My burden isn't to show that deadly drugs should be legal. I only need to show that assisted suicide should be illegal. There's nothing about the resolution, definitional note, rules, or nature of this debate that prohibits me from arguing both the status quo and deadly drugs. This isn't a high school policy debate. Nowhere on DDO does it say Pro and Con must advocate a single case.
R1. To be clear, R1 is the opening round, and it defines the parameters of the debate, not R2. The words "deadly drugs" or "single case" don't appear in R1.
R2. It's obvious I was arguing for the status quo. The words "status quo" weren't necessary; it was implied. You can't legalize assisted suicide without changing the law. All my contentions except deadly drugs don't say anything about changing the status quo. Notably, I emphasized keeping assisted suicide illegal: "Assisted suicide undermines equality, liberty, medical care, and the power of suicide. There's also a host of potential unintended consequences. Taken together, all of these points make a compelling case that assisted suicide should remain illegal" (quoting myself from R2). I wrote this after 9,000 characters that didn't mention deadly drugs at all. I only spent 3 lines discussing deadly drugs; it was an afterthought, not the focus of my advocacy.
R3. I addressed Con's misunderstanding the first chance I had: the start of R3. The resolution, R1, and R2 weren't ambiguous: all contentions obviously applied to the status quo because they don't support changing the law at all, and deadly drugs was a 3-line afterthought, not the focus of my advocacy. As I said in R3, don't punish me for Con's mistake.
Definitions. Con also seems to misunderstand what assisted suicide is, as defined in R1. The right/crime at issue is intentionally helping a patient end their life. We're not talking about the right to kill oneself. Suicide is currently legal in all states and most countries. [Con's 6] Everyone already has the freedom to take their own life. That's not the issue here. The debate's about whether doctors should have the right to intentionally cause the death of another human being. I want to make sure this is absolutely clear, because Con says multiple times in R3 that he's simply arguing for the right to kill oneself, and that just isn't what the debate's about.
Fairness. Con says it's unfair that he has to argue against two cases while I only have to argue against one. But limiting discussion to a single case wasn't a requirement of this debate. Con could have argued as many cases as he wanted. Instead, Con chose not to argue any. That doesn't make the debate unfair. It's not my fault that Con had multiple strategy options but then chose to limit himself by not employing them. Again, don't punish me for Con's mistakes.
Education. Con says arguing two cases isn't educational. On the contrary, it's far more educational to consider all relevant issues instead of limiting the discussion. Confining the debate to two niche advocacies isn't educational. Great thinkers, politicians, philosophers, and theorists don't pidgeon hole themselves into discussing a single opinion; we shouldn't either.
Reasonableness. Con says arguing against two inconsistent cases is unreasonable. But the cases here aren't inconsistent. The only difference between the status quo and deadly drugs is the available means of suicide. Both are distinguishable from assisted suicide in the same critical ways: (1) doctors can't intentionally cause death; (2) no arbitrary limits on who can commit suicide; (3) no slippery slope to involuntary euthanasia; (4) no corruption of doctors. These are the key distinctions and they're fully consistent. Even if the cases are opposed in some ways, they're still independent proofs of the resolution: both argue against assisted suicide. Nowhere in R1 or on DDO does it say Pro or Con can't advocate multiple independent cases. If Pro and Con were discussing ice cream flavors over dinner, and Pro argued, "vanilla isn't the best because hazelnut and lemon are better," nobody would say Pro's argument isn't fair or reasonable. Pro's burden isn't showing which flavor is best; it's only to show vanilla isn't the best. Likewise, Con can't show vanilla is best by arguing only against hazelnut and then completely ignoring arguments for lemon. Multiple independent cases aren't only fair and reasonable, they best emulate real world situations.
Burdens. Con says rebuttals alone can win an equal burdens debate. While that may be true sometimes, it's absolutely not true in this debate. Arguing that deadly drugs shouldn't be legal doesn't show that assisted suicide should be legal. You can't argue for a change in the law without making an offensive case; rebuttals alone aren't enough. Con failed to meet his burden and therefore cannot win the debate.
== Arguments ==
I'm gonna summarize my arguments while responding to Con's stuff from R3.
(1) Assisted suicide leads to involuntary euthanasia. Con concedes that assisted suicide and involuntary euthanasia are grounded on the same logic. But, Con argues the Netherlands legalized voluntary euthanasia before it legalized involuntary euthanasia. That's one of the weakest arguments against a slippery slope that I've ever seen. Yes, before a country legalizes involuntary euthanasia, it's presumed that they'd legalize voluntary euthanasia. That's how slippery slopes work. Assisted suicide and euthanasia (both voluntary and involuntary) are grounded on the same *logic.* The empirical evidence demonstrates how this logic plays out, showing a slope from assisted suicide to voluntary euthanasia, and from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia. This outcome undermines bodily freedom and the right to life.
(2) Con admits risks of abuse. Anyone can already commit suicide without assistance from a doctor, so there's no reason to accept these risks. There's no unique benefit here that outweighs the harms. The impact is people getting away with murder. Con also says his case allows a private deathbed, which increases the risk of abuse. Also, note that Con's own *every suicide is a potential murder* argument applies to his case but not the status quo.
(3) See R2 for reasons that assisted suicide would expand the categories for whom assisted suicide is available, as well as reducing interference with suicide attempts. Con drops these points in R2, and offers no reason to believe these outcomes won't happen. Expanding categories means less equality and greater magnitude of harms. Limiting interference means more successful suicides.
(4) Minorities: more suffering means more assisted suicide. More minorities choosing assisted suicide because of institutional discrimination shows there's a potential unintended consequence from legalizing assisted suicide.
(5) Assisted suicide lowers demand for pain control, which could disincentivize R&D.
Equality. Con asks that we enforce a distinction between persons not with respect to social security or education or other government services, but with respect to the most fundamental question of all, namely, whose lives should be treated as inviolable under law and whose may be subject to intentional destruction by others. Con asks that we accept, judge, and decree that certain persons are worth total respect while others don't merit such respect. This creates a second class of citizens. Con's response in R3 is incoherent. You can't justify equal protection if some lives are worth more than others. Saying life has inherent value doesn't mean anything if what matters under the law are differences in instrumental value. Why treat people equally if they're not actually equal? Con never answers this. See R3 for why Con's position leads to infanticide and murder. Con's criteria are also arbitrary (who decides which lives aren't worthy of preservation?). Also see R3 for my argument that consent doesn't justify assisted suicide (i.e. it's like trying to justify a slavery contract).
Right to Refuse. A patient who asks to be taken off life support effectively asks for assistance in suicide. The doctor must cause death. This blurs the line between assisted suicide and refusing treatment. The problem is that assisted suicide empowers doctors to refuse assistance. As a result, there's a risk that assisted suicide will undermine the right to refuse treatment. A brightline distinction between refusing treatment and assisted suicide isn't possible unless assisted suicide is illegal.
Corruption. Medicine is about preventing or curing disease, not causing death. Con agrees that suicide isn't a medical treatment. And Con can't deny that historically suicide has always been a moral issue, not a medical one. Thus, legalizing assisted suicide corrupts the role of doctors. Remember, patients can already commit suicide without a doctor's assistance, so the only effect that assisting suicide has is approving the suicide. That's something better left to moral institutions, not medical ones. Those left behind can't judge a suicide approved by a doctor; this turns doctors into priests.
Suicide. Preapproving suicide shields it from judgment and deprives its social power. Bouazizi's suicide was inspirational precisely because it was shocking; it reflected the value we place on life. Nothing can reflect the value we place on life the way a suicide can. Protests don't have that effect. Suicide is unlike anything else we do; to say its effect on those left behind is non-unique totally mistakes its nature. Bouazizi's suicide didn't have a non-unique impact.
Conclusion. Con's rebuttals are weak, lacking in substance, and incoherent. Moreover, Con refused to argue that assisted suicide is preferable to the status quo. Why legalize it if suicide is already an option? Con never answers this. Thus, Con has failed to meet his burden. For all of the above reasons, vote Pro.
Thanks again to Pro for an intriguing debate.
1) The topic and burdens
The topic requires that Pro argue against assisted suicide, and that I argue for it. That's all. Pro's case used to meet that burden. My case still does. The resolution does not define how we argue these issues. This debate could have focused on either my case or a comparison of our cases. Both are completely within the bounds of the topic.
Deciding this debate requires an evaluation of the net benefits of our cases. If legal assisted suicide is more beneficial than Pro's case, then vote Con, even if my case is a net negative. As such, his burden isn't to show that assisted suicide is net harmful; it's to outweigh it with an alternative. If legal assisted suicide outweighs, then it should be legal to preclude the harmful alternative. Pro even admits that he has an equal burden of proof, but that requires that we both defend a single case. Hold him to that burden.
2) Pro's “cases”
Our cases were stated in R2 so it doesn't matter what came before. Pro established that he was running “an alternative,” and specified that alternative as “make deadly drugs available to the public” for the first time in his third sentence, repeating it at the end of the round. If we care at all about what was said first as Pro does, then we should hold him to his single case as a result. Extend my #1: he continued to defend it, hold him accountable for it.
Pro drops my #3. He requires that I can't even put my single case in a structure, let alone add extra cases or expand. Yet he has added an “implied” case, and markedly expanded his other case. This double standard cannot stand. He wanted a full case structure out of me, he certainly cannot just imply his, nor can he expand on a vague case.
Pro's R1 requirements aren't exhaustive and don't excuse clearly unfair and unreasonable tactics. If Pro is able to argue both cases, he's able to argue for mass facilitation of suicide and against it at the same time. Pro also provided a tremendous amount of disadvantages that apply to his main case more stringently than they do mine (Pro drops those links), making his cases mutually exclusive by his own arguments. He's literally providing the reasons why he cannot run both together. They're inconsistent. One ice cream flavor doesn't negate the flavor of another, whereas these cases most certainly do contradict one another.
Abuse based on fairness and reasonability alone is reason enough to vote Con. But if you don't want to vote here, you can at least hold him to his case, and require that it be weighed on its own merits against mine.
I'll quote Pro as before: “In assisted suicide, the doctor assists but the patient is the final causal actor in his or her own death.” That's all I've ever argued for in this debate, even when Pro's tried to expand that definition. I haven't argued for suicide outside of the confines of the doctor-patient relationship – that's Pro's ground.
I'm going to shift away from our format and focus on voters.
I) In-Round Abuse
This is the easiest place to vote Con. Pro actively expanded his case one round after presenting it, “giv[ing] me less rounds to refute his arguments than he has to refute mine.” In Pro's own words, that's abuse. In doing so, he has also made his case non-topical, meaning Pro failed to meet the burden laid out by the resolution. Pro dropped both of these points. Either one is a unique reason to vote Con before even deciding whether Pro can run two cases – if he's engaged in abuse with either one of his cases, that's reason enough to vote him down.
My vagueness points show that no company/agency would produce, distribute, stock or approve this drug. There's also no unique benefit to their availability. He has no solvency. All his case manages to do is make suicide attempts more deadly. He's dropped all of these points, and thus his case has 0 benefit and a major harm. However, my case has multiple benefits, achieved by ensuring that doctors can adequately see to basic patient rights and by helping countless secretly suicidal people who would otherwise end their lives, both of which Pro drops and both of which apply to both cases. Note that these benefits did come up in rebuttals, whereas Pro has no stated benefits to his altered status quo case.
I've proven that Pro's case leads to hugely increased death tolls. His case:
a) allows suicidal individuals hiding their mental illness to continue pursuing death without help,
b) ensures a higher success rate for each attempted suicide (which are far more common) by providing more effective means,
c) is less effective at obtaining informed consent,
d) facilitates a temptation to commit suicide that will increase the number of suicide attempts,
e) allows widespread corruption by doctors whose support of assisted suicide will lead to numerous recommendations (and pre-approvals) that cannot be regulated, and
f) creates a means for murder that cannot be effectively policed, allowing murderers to escape justice.
As my case restricts access to individuals who are highly likely to die in the near future, it doesn't increase loss of life, whereas Pro's necessarily facilitates an increase by providing individuals who are not on the verge of death with deadly medication.
Pro's slippery slope requires dramatic shifts in legality after implementation based on nothing but weakly shared logic. He presumes that voluntary euthanasia will be legalized after assisted suicide, and never explains why or how the legal barriers will disappear. There are two separate legal barriers to overcome: legalizing voluntary euthanasia and then, following the example of a single country, legalizing involuntary euthanasia. Pro's own reasoning regarding the responsibilties of doctors creates an ethical barrier to overcome as well. All are unlikely.
Pro paradoxically argues that my case is both overly restrictive and expanding its inclusion. Even if Pro's right about expanding categories (it's unwarranted, even in R2, and ignores legal and ethical barriers), his case expands to all categories. Even if Pro's right that I risk reducing respect for some individuals, lost respect doesn't lead to any substantial harm. Not all life experience is equal, but as long as there is a basic respect for human life, which we both agree exists through inherent value, then the harms Pro states don't occur. He never explains why a partial loss of value justifies infanticide and murder – don't give him those links.
IV) Roles of Doctors
Both Pro's case (his main one) and mine make clear that some people should have access to efficient and reliable means for suicide. The difference between our cases regards who should be facilitated and by whom. Pro facilitates all individuals, regardless of their medical circumstances, which results in an increased loss of life. Pro also makes psychologists and governments the facilitators (neither of which are “moral institutions”, nor are any institutions empowered in status quo) and, in both cases, disempowers doctors.
However, doctors have a basic duty to minimize suffering and seek informed self-determination. Pro absolutely denies them this capacity with dying patients, handing that task off to a bureaucratic government (or no one) with no such duty. I showed that medical benefits are moral goods. Beneficience requires that doctors do right medically by their patients and reduce suffering. Thus, ending suffering in terminal patients without hope for recovery is also a moral good. This applies to minorities as well, who may be escaping consistent and terrible pain brought on by the medical system that would otherwise perpetuate it. The consultations that ensure the patient is fully capable of informed consent are either minimized or absent in Pro's case, whereas mine ensures a doctor-patient dialogue. The doctor is held accountable for their prescriptions, and would thus be required to ensure that this dialogue results in the best possible outcome for their patients. There's not a point in here Pro didn't drop, and all of them apply to both of his cases.
Pro still tries to access this point on corruption, but drops that both of his cases bite this harder. Pro would shift the duty of doctors solely to treatment (which has failed these patients) and recommendation (which has less accountability). This makes the incidence of abuse by doctors far higher in his cases.
As for the right to refuse, taking someone off of life support still doesn't fit Pro's own definition of assisted suicide. Patients must administer the meds. It's the patient's choice whether they ask for these meds and whether they use it after they get them. They draw the line between care and lack of it. Pro drops this. I've provided specific, reasonable and logical criteria (not just consent) by which assisted suicides can be approved, none of which Pro challenges, and none of which are arbitrary.
All of these impacts remain nebulous, but if you do care about them, this is an easy place to vote Con. Pro presented a case that forces government regulation on individuals seeking suicide, exchanging individual doctors for huge bureaucracies that restrict their freedom, equality and privacy far more absolutely.
Pro's attacks on my case are all conjecture. Slippery slopes, claims of risk and perceptual harms draw attention away from what's certain to focus on what could happen if things play out in a very specific (read: unlikely) fashion. All policy have risks, but those are secondary when the benefits are highly substantial and far more likely. My case has both. To limit the number of suicide attempts and reduce their successes, to ensure effective doctor-patient relationships and keep the focus on beneficience, and to see that dying, suffering patients can end their lives legally with dignity and without pain, assisted suicide must be legal. Pro's cases garner him nothing but harms. Vote Con.
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