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Argument: Euthanasia will not create a slippery slope to legal murder

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Supporting quotations

R.G. Frey, D.Phil, Professor of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University. "The Fear of a Slippery Slope," Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: For and Against. 1998 - "Especially with regard to taking life, slippery slope arguments have long been a feature of the ethical landscape, used to question the moral permissibility of all kinds of acts... The situation is not unlike that of a doomsday cult that predicts time and again the end of the world, only for followers to discover the next day that things are pretty much as they were...

We not only can distinguish between [voluntary and non-voluntary] cases [of euthanasia] but do...

We need the evidence that shows that horrible slope consequences are likely to occur. The mere possibility that such consequences might occur, as noted earlier, does not constitute such evidence."[1]

In Compassion in Dying v. Washington, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in their Mar. 6, 1996 decision delivered by Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt: - "Known as a slippery slope argument or what one commentator has called the 'thin edge of the wedge' argument, the opponents of assisted-suicide conjure up a parade of horribles and insist that the only way to halt the downward spiral is to stop it before it starts. This same nihilistic argument can be offered against any constitutionally-protected right or interest.

Both before and after women were found to have a right to have an abortion, critics contended that legalizing that medical procedure would lead to its widespread use as a substitute for other forms of birth control or as a means of racial genocide. Inflammatory contentions regarding ways in which the recognition of the right would lead to the ruination of the country did not, however, deter the Supreme Court from first recognizing and then two decades later reaffirming a constitutionally-protected liberty interest in terminating an unwanted pregnancy.

In fact, the Court has never refused to recognize a substantive due process liberty right or interest merely because there were difficulties in determining when and how to limit its exercise or because others might someday attempt to use it improperly.

Recognition of any right creates the possibility of abuse. The slippery slope fears of Roe's [Roe v. Wade] opponents have, of course, not materialized. The legalization of abortion has not undermined our commitment to life generally; nor, as some predicted, has it led to widespread infanticide. Similarly, there is no reason to believe that legalizing assisted suicide will lead to the horrific consequences its opponents suggest."[2]

Derek Humphry, Founder of the Hemlock Society, writes in his article "The Case for Assisted Suicide and Active Voluntary Euthanasia," on (last updated on June 11, 2006): - "This [slippery slope] argument is singularly implausible if one who makes it means that there is a logical connection between the killings in question such that one who endorses the first cannot without inconsistency refuse to endorse the last. The fact that in one case a person is killed in his own interest because he requests it, whereas in the other a person is killed in the interest of others without (or contrary to) his consent, is surely a morally relevant difference.

Since this is so, the question 'How can we draw the line?' should not perplex one for long. No one thinks that making killing in self-defense an exception to criminal homicide starts one on a slippery slope which logically must end in the abolition of the crime of murder; no one should think the same about legalizing voluntary euthanasia.

A more common and plausible way of understanding the objection is to take it as alleging an empirical connection between the killings in question. If, however, the claim is an empirical one, it stands in need of evidence. What is the evidence that a policy of allowing death on request, begun in good faith and motivated by compassion, will lead to unwanted killings?

Two items of evidence are commonly alleged. The first is the Nazi experience. However, there is no parity between the cases; all they have in common is the name euthanasia. In these cases, the name stands for quite different policies. The Nazi program of euthanasia was neither voluntary nor based on compassion; it was, rather, motivated by the desire to remove useless eaters and preserve the purity of the Volk, and hence was the result of a vicious and racist ideology already firmly in place, not the unwanted and unexpected upshot of an intrinsically desirable social reform.

The second, which is currently attracting the most attention, is the Netherlands experience. In the Netherlands we have a living laboratory in which the euthanasia experiment in being conducted, and it is claimed that active non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia are openly practiced there, exactly as predicted by the slippery slope argument. But the claim of the open and common practice of involuntary euthanasia has been often repeated but has never been substantiated, and indeed has been repeatedly challenged."[3]

Andrew Batavia, J.D. "Disability and Physician-Assisted Dying". Physician-Assisted Dying: The Case for Palliative Care & Patient Choice. 2004 - "[Euthanasia] does not deny people with disabilities suicide prevention services, protection against murder, or protection from other abuses. We further contend that, though we must always be vigilant in preventing abuses, the right will not necessarily be expanded to individuals or situations for which it was not intended..."[4]

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