I’m a Libertarian against Euthanasia

Radio New Zealand has reported on euthanasia activist Sean Davison.

New Zealand-born euthanasia activist Sean Davison has been sentenced to three years under house arrest in South Africa for helping three people to kill themselves. Davison was convicted in New Zealand of assisting his terminally ill mother to die in 2006, and was sentenced to five months home detention in 2011. He has been found guilty of pre-meditated murder in the South African cases for helping a quadriplegic friend and two other people die. Davison, a forensic scientist, founded of right-to-die organisation DignitySA in South Africa. He was arrested in September last year in connection with the death of his friend in 2013, who had become a quadriplegic after a car accident. He was given a sentence of eight years in total, five of which are suspended.

An extremely lenient sentence.

[…]Davison became a campaigner for the right to assisted dying after he was arrested in New Zealand in 2010 for helping his 85-year-old mother, who was ill with terminal cancer, to die four years earlier. The 57-year-old served five months of house arrest in New Zealand after pleading guilty to assisted suicide, before returning home to his family in South Africa.


All the above of course is tragic. But there is no way, in my view, that euthanasia should be legal. I am absolutely opposed to it.

But, you say. You’re a libertarian! Surely the right to be able to decide to end your own life, and especially to end it with dignity when enduring unimaginable pain, goes to the heart of what libertarianism is all about, right?

First, no ideology, in it’s pure form, has ever worked in the real world. There has to always be exceptions.

Secondly, John Stuart Mill, the father of classical liberalism, said that no one should have the right to sell themselves into slavery, that is give up their freedom. And while killing yourself isn’t quite selling yourself into slavery it is giving up your freedom in the most irreversible way possible.

Then there are the practical difficulties. I can see no doctor, in good conscience, aiding and abetting someone killing themselves, even if that person is terminally ill. Sure there are doctors that will, but I don’t see them acting in conscience and they would be few and far between.

And while it may be a case of Great Aunt Bertha wanting to end her life because she is terminally ill and suffering, it is just as likely to be case, probably much more so, of rich old Uncle Brian whose kids want him to bump himself off early so they can grab their inheritance.

This is to me the most compelling reason not to allow Euthanasia. Because at the end of the day, it is just State-sanctioned murder.