Support for Physician-Assisted Suicide Requires a Blind Eye to Past, Present, and Future Abuses

I’ve known bioethicist Art Caplan for over 25 years. During that time span we have corresponded back and forth many, many times. He held positions that differ from National Right to Life’s from mildly different to radically, whole-heartedly different. Why do I mention this? For two reasons. Caplan is, as he is often described, the “go-to” bioethicist whenever the media is looking for an “objective” perspective on just about every imaginable issue that falls under the (self-appointed) purview of bioethicists. And second, because Caplan is seemingly omnipresent–on network and cable television, on op-ed pages, in news stories, and more specialized academic publications–his views carry weight. There was never any doubt that Caplan would eventually go public with what clearly (to anyone reading his comments) was his private opinion: that whatever reasons there were previously to oppose legalizing physician-assisted suicide, experience had taught us (or at least Caplan) that legalizing assisted suicide would not unleash an anti-life genii which would wreak widespread havoc. We’ve reposted elsewhere a terrific response from Nancy Valko which offers a fine-grained critique of the bottomless well of dubious assumptions Caplan relies on. She honed in on the very shaky unpinning of Caplan’s argument in “More States Approve Physician-Assisted Dying. Is This Risky?“: that there is no slippery slope. Or, to more accurate, there hasn’t been in the United States and won’t be in the future. No one, including Caplan, could miss that the euthanasia/assisted suicide train had long since left the only-when-the-patient-is-terminal-and-in-pain station. It is running wildly off track. So what is Caplan’s answer to his own recitation of the grim facts–people are not terminally...