Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Death, life, choice, and cost

It sounds paradoxical to link the desire for unlimited medical treatment to the desire for physician-assisted suicide. But the idea that there’s a right to the most expensive health care while you want to be alive isn’t all that different, in a sense, from the idea that there’s a right to swiftly die once life doesn’t seem worth living.

In each case, the goal is perfect autonomy, perfect control, and absolute freedom of choice. And in each case, the alternative approach — one that emphasizes the limits of human agency, and the importance of humility in the face of death’s mysteries — doesn’t mesh with our national DNA.
Ross Douthat on physician-assisted suicide and the American polity.

There have been a string of good articles in the last month on such cases, where deeply-held but ultimately untenable positions come up against life's conditions and boundaries:

Tim Kreider on not pursuing happiness.

Eric Zencey on GDP as an instance of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

Douthat again, on on the conservatism of Judd Apatow movies:
More than most Westerners, Americans believe — deeply, madly, truly — in the sanctity of marriage. But we also have some of the most liberal divorce laws in the developed world, and one of the highest divorce rates. We sentimentalize the family, but boast one of the highest rates of unwed births. We’re more pro-life than Europeans, but we tolerate a much more permissive abortion regime than countries like Germany or France. We wring our hands over stem cell research, but our fertility clinics are among the least regulated in the world.

In other words, we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us...
Concerning that permissive abortion regime, there's this over at First Things:
Prior to the legalization of abortion in the United States, it was commonly understood that a man should offer a woman marriage in case of pregnancy, and many did so. But with the legalization of abortion, men started to feel that they were not responsible for the birth of children and consequently not under any obligation to marry. In gaining the option of abortion, many women have lost the option of marriage. Liberal abortion laws have thus considerably increased the number of families headed by a single mother, resulting in what some economists call the “feminization of poverty.”
(From Richard Stith's Her Choice, Her Problem: How Abortion Empowers Men.) Back at the Times, RD muses on how the issue might have played differently, if Ted Kennedy had shared some of his sister Eunice's qualms about the practice.

On a happier note, a couple of books reflect, forty years on, on what was special about Woodstock. The answers may surprise you.

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