Transhumanism and assisted suicide

by SeventhNadir1 min read31st Oct 201011 comments

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Transhumanism
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I would identify myself as holding many trans-humanist values and beliefs. That death and dying are not desirable and that it should, like smallpox, be eradicated. It also occurs to me however that I hold the belief that assisted suicide can sometimes be the right course of action. I can justify this sufficiently to myself, but I have a history of being a sophisticated arguer, so my ability to convince myself isn't great evidence.

Are my beliefs incoherent? I look at both issues and they both still feel right (I'm aware this does not make it so). Are these beliefs contradictory (and if so how)? Or are they justified by some hidden assumptions that I can't seem to acknowledge explicitly?

I get the idea that this is probably borderline appropriate for the discussion forum so I will delete this topic if asked to.

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Assisted suicide is not about looking for death, it's about minimising pain and humiliation.

Death is just a mean to that end - specifically, the only remaining mean. You don't have to like death to decide that it's the only way you're going to leave that hospital bed.

Ah, so it's a non-optimal solution that just so happens to be the best of the crappy options available. Thanks.

Well, being "the best of the crappy options available" is what makes something optimal :P

A common thread in the transhumanist community's ethics is "non-consensual effects are wrong"

Smallpox is a non-consensual cessation of existence. Suicide is consensual.

Is that, perhaps, the ethical principle that causes you to accept one and not the other?

Possibly, but consent in this context is a bit tricky.

A depressed person may actively want to die but we generally don't consider a person in this state as capable of consenting to anything.

If that same person had depression AND a fatal illness that will cause them suffer for another joyless 20 years, do we consider them capable?

Your suggestion is a really good rule of thumb but I'm just wondering if there is more to the story

Ah; I suspect the explanation for this second part is:

You do not consider a person capable of consent if they are depressed because of a temporary and curable imbalance in the brain/mind system (ie they are mentally ill*)

You do consider a person capable of consent if they are depressed because their life really is shit, and it's going to stay that way (ie. a rational cost-benefit analysis would tell them "yeah, actually, you are better off dead")

*edit: ie. they are non-consensually incapable of rationality

Cryonicists would probably prefer "deanimation", but ISTM that "assisted suicide" would be a requirement for most appropriate use of cryonics. If you're dying of something that is turning your brain into mush, or scrambling your personality, you'd want to stop the damage.

If a person is going to die and for some reason cryonics is not an option (they refuse it, e.g.), arranging things so that they die in the manner they most prefer is the best available course of action. It is an awful, terrible course of action that one should do one's best to avoid, but when there is nothing better one does what one must.

Under what conditions do you support (or are confused about whether you should support) suicide and assisted suicide? Under these conditions, would cryonics be a better alternative, barring legal and financial barriers?

Situations where continuing medical interventions are effectively only prolonging the suffering of the individual and family members. Cryonics as an alternative is very interesting, but I haven't given the topic much thought.

[-][anonymous]11y 0

Possibly, but consent in this context is a bit tricky.

A depressed person may actively want to die but we generally don't consider a person in this state as capable of consenting to anything.

If that same person had depression AND a fatal illness that will cause them suffer for another joyless 20 years, do we consider them capable?

What you're suggesting is definitely the best rule of thumb for the situation but I'm not sure its the whole story.