However, even if this is accepted, the question confrontingsociety is not whether an individual is justified in wanting PAS. The broaderquestion is the impact the change in the law will have on society.
If some cases warrant PAS, is it possible towrite legislation that will apply only to those individuals? Or willlegislation passed out of compassion sweep up some who are not tired of life,but think others are tired of them? Kamisar writes: “In a society whichrecognizes by specific legislation that assisted suicide (and hence suicide aswell) is a rational and reasonable course of action in certain circumstances,and a society in which assisted suicide will not only be thinkable butspeakable, will it be or become the “right” thing to do under certaincircumstances? The courageous thing? The disappointing or selfish or cowardlything not todo?” (In case anyone thinks Kamisar’s worries are unrealistic, I should pointout that at least one writer has advocated a “duty to die” to avoid imposingserious financial, physical, or emotional burdens on family members.)Inaddition to the risk that some individuals may feel pressured into choosingdeath, there are groups of patients who may be especially vulnerable: thedisabled, those with mental illness, poor people, and minority group members.The risk that death may be too easily seen as a solution to terminal illnessfor members of these groups is intensified by economic pressures, whenhealthcare budgets are being cut. As one commentator put it: “Even if the rightto assisted suicide were restricted to terminally ill people, it seems likelythat some—the poor, elderly, unassertive, clinically depressed, members of disfavouredminorities, or some combination of all these—would be especially vulnerable tosubtle or not-so-subtle promptings to choose a quick, easy (and inexpensive)exit. Womenmight also be a vulnerable group, partly because of sexism which both devalueswomen and idealises women as self-sacrificing, and partly because studies haveshown women to be at greater risk for inadequate pain relief and for depression.Untilvery recently, no one could do more than speculate the risks. Now, however, wehave Oregon’s experience as objective evidence.
Have the fears of the anti-PAScrowd materialised?