On Friday, I wrote about the first forum of Thomas Cooley Law School's World View's Collide event regarding stem cell research. Today, I want to share about the second forum on assisted suicide. I should also mention that on the way to the event I walked past a small anti-war/anti-Bush protest and learned that "9/11 was an inside job."
Anyway, the speakers in favor of assisted suicide being legal were Eli Stutsman (who was/is involved with Oregon's assisted suicide law) and George Felos (Michael Schiavo's former lawyer) while the speakers against assisted suicide being legal were Nikolas Nikas (from the Bioethics Defense Fund) and Wesley Smith. I left early so I unfortunately missed out on the rebuttals and Q and A with the audience. Below are summaries of the four presentations.
Eli Stutsman went first and basically outlined Oregon's assisted suicide law, a little of the history behind it and the efforts to overturn it. I thought it was somewhat odd and dry because he didn't make an argument in favor of why assisted suicide should be legal but basically provided a time line on Oregon's assisted suicide law. He also used a projector and when his transparencies projected on to the screen behind him they were extremely difficult to read. I don't know if they requested him to make a presentation like he did but it just didn't seem to fit.
Nikolas Nikas discussed his work to prevent the legalization of assisted suicide in Arizona and some of the dangers of assisted suicide. He mentioned how many people equate not receiving life-continuing treatment (like being resuscitated and put on a respirator) with assisted suicide and that how many people favor assisted suicide tends to drop the more specific you are when describing it.
George Felos' presentation was probably one of the weirdest and most uncomfortable speeches I've seen from someone who is being paid to speak in favor of assisted suicide. He started out with some random "kids say the darndest things"-type jokes and then meandered to random situations where assisted suicide might be morally right (like in a John Wayne movie where John Wayne gave a gun to guy who was about to be attacked by wolves). He talked about polls regarding assisted suicide and threw out random numbers like 65% of people are in favor of assisted suicide but never cited which polls said this. His voice would often rise and fall in various places as well. I don't know if that's some courtroom lawyer trick but I thought it was weird. He then kind of went into something that seemed almost like a prolife speech as he talked about how 47% of doctors don't know what their patients wishes are, how end of life care is often substandard and how if we improved end of life care then maybe we wouldn't need to have a debate on assisted suicide. Felos ended his presentation without making any arguments for why assisted suicide should be legal.
Wesley Smith was last and discussed the two main pillars (as he sees them) of proponents of assisted suicide.
1. A radical notion of personal autonomy where people should be allowed to do whatever they want with their lives including saying an example phrase "It's my body and I'll die if I want to" accidentally so it sounded like "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to."
2. Death is an acceptable answer to suffering.
He then talked about the consequences when a society accepts this kind of world view and discussed how compassion is really "suffering with" a patient. Wesley also shared how one of his first hospice patients (he volunteers for some kind of hospice organization) wanted to die when they first met and Wesley lost him as a patient, not because he died but because he got better and left hospice.