“Comparison between Ernest Van den Haag’s and Rand Richards Cooper’s Articles. ’’ It is a very delicate issue to talk about physician-assisted suicide. There are two authors that have very interesting things to say about this topic: Ernest Van den Haag with his essay “Make Mine Hemlock”, and Rand Richards Cooper who wrote “The Dignity of Helplessness: What Sort of Society Would Euthanasia Create? ” They have very interesting, and valid reasons to believe that their point of view should prevail when deciding if physician- assisted suicide should be or not legalized.
They have very different opinions in many issues like the slippery slope argument. They disagree when they talk about safeguards as a guarantee of a legal decision, and they do not agree in the point that it is an individual right for people to choose if they want to live or die. Van den Haag finds the slippery slope argument has no foundation, and Cooper says that it will definitely end up happening. Van den Haag finds it irrational trying to compare the physicians that would assist patients to commit suicide with the doctors in the Nazi era.
When Germany was under the Third Reich, the doctors and hospitals were forced to perform terrible things, by the way, usually exaggerated to make them believable. These practices were not the result of any command given in the past; there is no slippery slope in the Nazi era. The idea that things will get worse because we let a doctor act as an assistant to help a patient to terminate his life has no convincing arguments, and after some time the doctors are not going to turn into murderers or are going to start performing weird experiments with people.
Cooper, on the other hand, says that our minds get used to things. Maybe after our society accepts the fact that an elderly and sick person or a terminally ill patient needs to be put to death, in a couple of years or so, we are going to start thinking that a person with disabilities or a malformation in his body should be put to death too. That we will end up being perfectionists, if there is someone that is different, that person needs to die. Cooper is going to extremes; Van den Haag tells us that there is no evidence that there has been ever any slippery slope in the history of medical practice.
Cooper disagrees with Van den Haag when the second one says that safeguards will be a guarantee to determine when a person’s decision is legitimate. Van den Haag says that if safeguards already exist to ensure that a will of a patient is valid because it has not been done under the influence of third parties. The same safeguards can be used to guarantee that the patient who has made the decision to put an end to his life has not been forced by anyone. Cooper asks how these safeguards will work with an old and very sick person convinced he is a burden to everyone.
How are those safeguards going to work when old people start feeling guilty or bad for being alive and telling themselves maybe I should die too because I am just causing a lot of trouble and work for their family. People are going to start changing the concept of aging. Certainly this is a very strong argument, but on the other side, we find a person that is sick, in pain, that eventually is going to die of whatever illness she has. Why not help her and let her go without having to go through all that pain and suffering.
Van den Haag’s opinion on the people’s rights to choose if they want to live or die is very different from Cooper’s. Van den Haag says that now people are owners of their own lives, and as a community are owners of their own society, not like a long time ago when it was thought that society or God were the owners of people’s lives, and it was considered a big offense or a sin to commit suicide. As owners of their own lives, people have enough authority to decide whether or not to end their own lives. Cooper on the other side thinks that accepting assisted suicide will leave a lot of issues on the table.
He thinks that showing our compassion and wanting to help someone loved that is in agony is an obvious response because we do not want them to suffer, but is not a reason to let them have the right to take that decision. Cooper makes us look at other cultures and see the way these cultures accept illnesses and suffering as sacrifices that people have to go through and that these people are not the ones to decide if they live or die or if they have the right to do it. He says that legalizing physician-assisted suicide or giving people the right to decide if they want to live or die leaves many doors open because each case is different.
Both points of view are very valid but Van den Haag talks of a fact: people own their lives and if they decide that they do not want to live anymore why not make that decision the people’s individual right. Incredible how these authors express with clarity all their valid arguments about physician-assisted suicide, as said before is a very complex subject. One thing is true, no one wants to suffer or live humiliated under terrible conditions. We do not need to experience pain or have a terminal illness to know that we rather die than to have to go through all the agony and distress caused by an incurable desease.
Let’s wait now to see what happens, if any of these arguments listed here are good enough when the time comes to decide if it is possible to legalize or not physician-assisted suicide. Works Cited Cooper, Rand R. “The Dignity of Helplessness: What Sort of Society Would Euthanasia Create? ” Commonweal (1996): 12-15. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Web. 22 Jan. 2004. Van den Haag, Ernest. “Make Mine Hemlock” National Review (1995): 60-62. Academic One File. Web. 10 Sept. 2004.