Friday, April 06, 2007

Polling On The Right To Die

Marcy Burstiner, the North Coast Journal's Media Maven, takes a look this week at local media coverage of Assemblybabe Patty Berg's Right To Die bill. I won't quibble with her analysis of local media, but the end of her commentary I found somewhat troubling, if only by its implications. To quote her:

Missing from every story was a breakdown of support or opposition among terminally ill people. I'd like the Harris poll to go to every hospice across the state, and ask as many lucid, dying people what they think. Consider what difference it might make if, in contrast to the 70 percent of all residents in support, it turned out that 70 percent of terminally ill patients were against? Would some opposition soften if it turned out that 80 percent of terminally ill patients wanted the ability to choose the day to die? I wonder.

She does bring up a good point: There seems to have been little consideration of those most directly affected by the ramifications of this bill- the terminally ill patients themselves.

But I see that comment from a slightly different angle and I'll take it a step further.

Sure, no one is asking the terminally ill their opinion, but what if they had and it ended up either way, with either 70% of them for or against the right to die. What if you were one of the 30% who felt the opposite of the majority? Shouldn't this be a personal decision not subject to a majority vote?

I realize Patty Berg's bill is mostly about the right to personally decide, but to throw opinion statistics into the fray, while interesting, also suggests that it's totally appropriate for 70% of a given group to dictate to the 30% how they'll live their lives.

So, even if some hypothetical group of hospice associations took a poll, and the state legislature decided to cast their votes for or against AB 374 based on that poll, how would you like it if something that literally affected your life in a bad way was passed because 70% of the group felt differently than you?

I find that troubling.

I realize that was not the intent of Ms. Burstiner's commentary. That's just the way I read the last paragraph. Thing is, I think all too many people nowadays have no problem with- what should be personal decisions- being made by someone else.

Alas, it is true. That is the way we've come to accept living nowadays. Isn't it?

I've come to hate that old childhood saying, Majority rules! Seems too many others around the country have embraced it.


At 12:40 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

That is one of the downsides of the social contract, tyranny of the majority. When it comes to an issue like pederasty, I'm in support of majority rule. But on an issue like the right to assist a terminally ill loved one in her wish to end her life, I think the majority should stay out of it. Ah the trials and tribulations of civilized life.

At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The protection from a "tyranny of the majority" resides in the US Constitution. If Berg's bill is enacted, it is subject to challenge on constitutional grounds. As of now, the issue is not legally well settled.

Personally I think its a good idea, giving people more freedom. Isn't that what Libertarians are supposed to be all about??

You guys are all OK with majority rule, when it goes YOUR way. But are against it only when it goes against what you want!! Basically you feel an entitlement to being in the majority and have chosen to live in a backwater place where diversity of opinion has long been suppressed by arrogant industrialists who controlled the economy.

You're fundamentally intolerant and uncompromising. Those are anti-American traits, ones that the founders of this country firmly rejected.

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does some hapless soldier in Iraq feel about his life being put in peril because some small majority decided to send him there ?

You want to be a patriot, you have to accept the legitimate decisions of the majority. Move to your own desert isle (or the Humboldt county of years ago) if you don't want other people's opinions to affect your life.

At 12:47 AM, Blogger Stephen Lewis said...

Majority rule in America means many minorities never receive representation. A 10% minority in the U.S. is equal to almost 30 million people, a larger population than many nations of the world. The U.S. was founded with I think around 4 million people. With minorities this large without hope of ever receiving representation we are just asking for trouble. If taxation without representation is tyranny, what is legislation without representation?

I will be posting my Minority Rights Amendment on my blog site soon.

At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Lewis, you're saying that only a minority comprised of a "large" number that can "make trouble" deserves consideration?
Guess we don't need to worry about Native Americans or Hawaiians under your idea. Thats not liberty you're promoting but pure demographic politics.

Finally I'm not sure I understand what your divisions are of citizens that result in their being permanent majorities and minorities. Everyone can be grouped into some majority or minority depending upon which political punster is drawing the lines.

Anyway, I'll look for your proposed Minority Rights (Constitutional?) Amendment and consider its merits.


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