Bioethics Blogs

How Not to Argue against a Proposed Law

Yes, yes: it’s tedious and internecine, but it’s almost a year since I had a pop at Kevin Yuill’s book on assisted dying; how about an update?  Well, conveniently, there’s this, in which he tries “to convince my fellow liberal minded atheists to reconsider their support for legalized assisted dying”.  OK, then.  First up, this isn’t a pro-legalisation post: I’m much more interested in looking at the arguments presented in their own terms.  I think they’re bad; but that is to do with their form rather than their content.  Indeed, one of Yuill’s opening moves is something to which I’m sympathetic: in respect of Lord Falconer’s latest Bill to legalise assisted dying, he points out that

the chief sponsoring agency (Dignity in Dying) lamely differentiates between the dying (those with six months or less to live) and those with more time.
If the latter ingest poison in a room by themselves &ndash; well, that&rsquo;s suicide. &nbsp;But if those with less than six months take poison with the intent to end their lives, that is not suicide at all but <ahem> assisted dying. Nope, me neither.

I agree that the six-month time limit is arbitrary, and probably morally indefensible. &nbsp;But&hellip;

*deep breath*

But note how Yuill botches even this point. &nbsp;For one thing, he doesn&rsquo;t say where DiD draws the distinction &ndash; there&rsquo;s no link -and so checking it, and its context, is needlessly&nbsp;difficult at best. &nbsp;But he&rsquo;s trading on the idea that suicide and assisted dying are exclusive terms, as though being assisted to commit suicide isn&rsquo;t a kind of assisted dying &ndash; which it is.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.