Adam Dzialo

Adam Dzialo
Our son, Adam Dzialo, age 30

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Slippery Slope Argument ....or the Camel's Nose: MA Question 2

       People die.  Our parents die, our siblings die, our children die, we all die....  It may be the final end, it maybe a transition, it maybe the prelude to the next life, it may be heaven or hell ... no proofs, just a wide disparity of beliefs.  I wrote extensively about Question 2 earlier in the month.

      Massachusetts voters are considering a ballot initiative in less than a week:  Death with Dignity, Physician-Assisted Suicide. Lately opponents are placing political ads on the tube which parallel the lies and distortions of the presidential campaigns.  Vote no: because no family would be around, because no physician would be there, because no psychological evaluation is mandated. Vote no:  because you break apart 100 seconal capsules, dissolve in water and drink.  Vote no: because of the slippery slope:  the terminally ill, then soon the disabled, then soon anyone a burden to society, then....we are the Netherlands.  This I believe stems from a rampant sense of unreal projection.       

One pernicious category of imaginary risks involves those created by users of the dreaded “slippery slope” arguments. Such arguments are dangerous because they are popular, versatile and often convincing, yet completely fallacious. Worse, they are creeping into an arena that should be above this sort of thing: physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

"The Slippery Slope is a fallacy in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question. In most cases, there are a series of steps or gradations between one event and the one in question and no reason is given as to why the intervening steps or gradations will simply be bypassed. This "argument" has the following form:

Event X has occurred (or will or might occur).
Therefore event Y will inevitably happen.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because there is no reason to believe that one event must inevitably follow from another without an argument for such a claim. This is especially clear in cases in which there is a significant number of steps or gradations between one event and another." The Nizkor Project

There is no evidence for the "slippery slope" or "camel's nose" argument in any place in the United States which has approved the "Death with Dignity" initiative.  Disability advocacy groups oppose Question 2, often on the basis of "the slippery slope" argument.  The disabled are not terminally ill; to equate disability with terminal illness is an insult.  Terminally ill people are often disabled to some degree.  There is no necessary or appropriate equation between the two states of living.

The lack of safeguards is an argument more reminiscent of a "salami slicing" strategy.  True, there does not need to be family nor a physician present and 100 capsules of seconal are dissolved in water and drank.  Some dying people would want family there to say a final good-bye; others might what?  It's part of choice.  Play into people's fears to defeat an initiative?

How can this deception occur? Look to the money funnel: "In order to launch their "no" campaign, they (opponents) accepted critical seed money from two anti-gay groups: the American Family Association and the American Principles Project. The American Family Association was named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their extremist actions, "including publicizing companies that have pro-gay policies and organizing boycotts against them."

Two requests for a lethal prescription, another witnessed request in writing, a determination by the physician that the patient is mentally competent to make medical decisions and a review by a second physician. A psychiatric evaluation may be required if needed. And a confirmed diagnosis of terminal within 6 months.  Quite a series of safeguards!

Yes, doctors make frequent mistakes.  Terminal in six months could translate to terminal in 6 years.  The lethal prescription is an option when life is intolerable or pain unrelenting and intractable.  I would doubt that many would choose to use the script if they are moderately ill or in manageable pain. People given the prescription do not always use it.  People know when death is near.  People know
when they can no longer tolerate life. This experience is quite subjective.  Hospice and palliative care are not ALWAYS an answer nor a solution, but a compliment to physician-assisted suicide.

"However, when looking at the statistics from Washington and Oregon, it appears that terminally ill patients are not choosing the DWDA program as an alternative to hospice care but as a compliment. The majority of patients who ingest DWDA medications are also enrolled in hospice care; 83% in Washington and 97% in Oregon." Barton Associates, Locum Tenens Experts, 10/29/2012

If you are opposed on moral or ethical grounds, do not prevent people of differing ethics or morality from the exercise of choice. If you advocate for the "slippery slope" position, realize that this is a philosophical and epistemological fallacy...."extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs" (Hitchens, C)

A good life should lead to a "good death."  No person should be forced to endure a "bad death"; no person should be deprived of choice because of the fears of some.  Yes, I acknowledge that good people will disagree, but do not allow disagreement to preclude choice of a "good death."

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