Debating Doctor-Assisted Suicide

by Jimmy Akin

in Apologetics, Law, Moral Theology

SyringeAfter having failed to get a doctor-assisted suicide bill passed earlier this year though the normal legislative process, the California legislators who are in the pocket of the assisted-suicide lobby recently rammed one through in a surprise move.

The time they did it happened to be suicide prevention week!

Now the bill is on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not announced whether he will sign it or not.

You can use this form to tell him no.

In May, 2015, Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) and I engaged in a cordial, online debate on doctor-assisted suicide.

He, and users of his web site, came up with the questions, and I provided answers.

Since the topic is now back in the news, I thought I’d re-present the exchange.

It got rather lengthy, since there were 18 questions (actually more than that, since some were compound questions) on a sensitive subject, and they could take a few hundred words to answer on average.

For that reason, I’m providing a set of questions with hyperlinks so that you can read the part of the exchange that most interest you.

You can read the original version, on Scott’s blog here.


  1. Why would you use to deny me the right to a painless death at the time of my choosing?
  2. What do you mean by the “common good” in the case of assisted dying?
  3. How is the common good is achieved by making my grandmother suffer, against her will, for an extra month before death?
  4. Oregon already has an assisted dying law. What problems have you seen with Oregon’s experience?
  5. Do you think the folks in Oregon would agree that their law has not worked for their common good?
  6. Do you believe psychological anguish is “pain” in the context of end-of-life decisions about reducing pain?
  7. Would your concerns be alleviated if California law allowed people to issue an advance health directive refusing all assisted suicide options?
  8. Do you believe physical pain can be nearly eliminated by drugs at the end of life, and that doing so is already the common practice?
  9. How many people do you think will be in terrible pain and wishing they had an assisted dying option?
  10. How many people do you think would choose an assisted death only to learn their disease has a cure just around the corner?
  11. How many disabled people do you think would be persuaded to end their lives early for the sake of someone else’s convenience?
  12. Some have argued that assisted suicide is a slippery slope. Can you give examples in which the slippery slope actually happened?
  13. How do you weigh the elements of “common good”?
  14. What does “do no harm” mean in an era when medical science can keep you alive and imprisoned in your own body indefinitely?
  15. If someone is brain dead, would you keep them alive for the common good?
  16. Do you believe pain relief is achievable for all people in the real world?
  17. Does the Catholic Church teach the sanctity of life or reverence for life?
  18. If people choose assisted death often enough, could it reduce the amount of efforts that go into curing those problems?

Also, here is Scott’s response to my answers.

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Danny September 16, 2015 at 11:30 am

In Answer 2, part 1, you refer to the former option twice instead of the former and the latter. Good, thoughtful responses.

Jimmy Akin September 17, 2015 at 9:45 am

Fixed! Thanks!

Robert Cihak September 16, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Very, very well done, Jimmy. Thanks for participating in this dialogue. Thanks also for your equally splendid work with Catholic Answers and the podcasts. Your irenic disposition and continued charity with all callers (and even your Catholic Answers hosts) is a wonderful example for all us apologists, including apologists for (divinely-created) human freedom in medicine, economics, etc.

I read through Scott’s entire blog entry to make sure I saw his side of the questions.

Bob Čihák (or Cihak if the diacritical marks get mangled by an email server)

Robert J. Čihák, M.D.

21310 Poplar Way
Brier WA 98036
home phone: (425) 822-6884
cell phone: (425) 466-5698
Board Member, Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP),
Past President, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS),
Senior Fellow and Board Member, Retired, Discovery Institute,
Founding Board member, Retired, Evergreen Freedom Foundation,
Retired and contributor.

Kenneth Heck September 17, 2015 at 5:05 am

Where Christianity is increasingly on the defensive in America, new repugnant ideas such as doctor-assisted suicide need to be resisted by all Christians. I believe physicians should never assist in suicide. It contradicts their function of preserving life. Each approving state should create an agency which processes requests for suicide and provides the appropriate means for carrying it out, without any physician participation.

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