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The unfolding logic of euthanasia


The Grim Reaper of euthanasiaA Belgian court recently granted permission for a psychiatrically ill prisoner to be euthanised. The prisoner, 50 year old Frank Van Den Bleeken, is serving a life sentence for rape and murder and has requested euthanasia due to his 'unbearable psychological anguish'.

The psychological anguish component is nothing new: in 2013 a Belgian man was euthanised due to the psychological burden of a failed sex-change operation, while earlier that same year deaf identical-twin brothers were euthanised for reasons of psychological suffering when they discovered they were losing their eyesight.

This is, however, the first time a prisoner has been granted permission to be euthanised, and with at least nine and as many as 15 other cases set to follow, a whole new set of ethical issues and problems must now be carefully considered and painstakingly scrutinised before further action is taken.

But Belgium has achieved its own momentum in such matters and as the co-chair of the Belgian euthanasia commission, Wim Distelmans, explained in regard to the sex-change case:

'The case of Nathan Verhelst, for instance, who met all the conditions of the law, we didn’t discuss about the case for one minute. It was just passed like that…We already have a tradition of 10 years. Should Nathan’s case have been 10 years ago, maybe we would have discussed some time about the case. Now, it’s like [just] another one.' 

Euthanasia advocates tend not to speak about tradition in relation to their cause. There’s usually plenty of talk of safeguards and the most difficult medical cases that naturally elicit our compassion, but no one seems to imagine, despite bountiful evidence from Belgium and the Netherlands, that euthanasia could take on a momentum of its own. The weight of tradition is, naturally, not something we associate with euthanasia in this country where, despite persistent efforts, the practice has never become established. 

Having worked in bioethics, it’s hard to avoid a morbid fascination with the gradual unfurling of euthanasia in nations where it has had a chance to become firmly established. While members of the public are usually shocked to hear of each new milestone, from an ethical perspective there are no real surprises in the unfolding logic of euthanasia. Euthanasia for children, euthanasia for those ‘tired of life’, euthanasia to stay out of a nursing home, double-euthanasia for loving couples wanting to end their lives together; once euthanasia is introduced the imperative to develop it to meet a broader range of public demand seems inevitable.  

Why not allow euthanasia for prisoners? If they are suffering and their minds are made up, is their situation really so different from that of a person with a terminal illness? The Belgian death penalty may have been abolished in 1996, but that doesn’t rule out offering a ‘death opportunity’ for those who prefer it over hard time. Never mind that in the case of prisoner Van Den Bleeken his psychological distress may well be exacerbated by the State’s failure to grant him psychiatric care for his violent sexual impulses in the 30 years of his imprisonment. With the European Court of Human Rights criticising Belgium’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners as 'inadequate', Belgium is at least partially complicit in however many ‘voluntary’ requests for euthanasia ultimately emerge from its chronically overcrowded prison system. 

Distelmans’ comment about the 'tradition of 10 years' ought to give us pause. Issues like euthanasia are rarely presented in terms of what we will find acceptable a decade down the path, when the practice is firmly established and our values have shifted accordingly. The Belgians may have thought they could engage in euthanasia prudently if they took safeguards, restricting access on the basis of age, illness, prognosis, or mental capacity. But the motivating forces of the modern euthanasia movement are individual autonomy and compassion for suffering – two ultimately distinct principles that can potentially encompass a wide range of circumstances.

While the ‘ideal’ euthanasia case is that of a terminally ill person who is suffering terribly and wishes to die, if we assent to such a case we will soon find minor deviations from the ideal which are nonetheless almost as compelling. How could we say to someone that their chronic condition is less worthy simply because it is not terminal? How can we tell people that their psychological suffering is not as significant as physical pain? How can we deny euthanasia to anyone who firmly and passionately desires it for any reason they deem worthy?

Having a ten year ‘tradition’ of euthanasia means having ten years to consider and reconsider the most difficult scenarios, to become accustomed to the ‘norms’ and variances of the merely everyday cases, and to let that first line in the sand gradually fade away. Who would ever have thought ten years ago that Belgium would be offering euthanasia to mentally ill prisoners instead of providing psychiatric treatment? Even Distelmans, himself responsible for euthanising the deaf twins and the transsexual Nathan Verhelst, has expressed concern, stating: 'Surely, we are not going to carry out euthanasia because we can't offer an alternative?' Apparently they are.

Zac Alstin headshot

Zac Alstin is a freelance writer and PhD student in Philosophy of Religion who lives in Adelaide. He blogs at zacalstin.com

Topic tags: Zac Alstin, euthanasia, ethics, prisons, law, medicine



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Existing comments

A good thought-provoking article except for the last para which exposes the author's own position. Surely the Belgian process is better than ours where people without hope or support step in front of train or provoke police officer to shoot them?

Ginger Meggs | 03 October 2014  

Great piece, Zac. I think you miss the point, Ginger. I think what Zac is saying is that if euthanasia is there as an option, what imperative is there to find proper psychiatric treatment for prisoners, or proper treatment for any of these individuals for that matter? Society can continue to ignore their problems until they exercise their 'option' to take their own lives. The tragic situations you talk about should provoke in us a desire to find better interventions for people in distress, not a desire to offer them more easy ways to commit suicide.

Joseph Vine | 04 October 2014  

Thanks Ginger Meggs. I think it's a discussion worth having regardless of whether one is for or against euthanasia in principle. Joseph's comment below yours is spot on: providing a state-sanctioned way for people "without hope or support" to end their lives is a less than ideal response to their circumstances in the first place.

Zac | 04 October 2014  

The main argument against euthanasia is, I believe, the centrality of cost to modern capitalist governments. In order to reduce the cost of caring for the aged or the chronically ill, euthanasia creep will occur. "He is costing too much Get out the syringe!" Genuine palliative care is costly.

Bilal | 04 October 2014  

The reality is that pain relief is not given to many. Palliative care is all but inaccessible that is if you have a terminal illness that is not cancer and cannot promise to be dead in three months. The excuse for not providing care is that it costs too much. People are being driven to consider euthanasia because they cannot access care. For some reason it is an offence to leave a cat or dog, incontinent and in pain but the medical and other establishments can and do do this to human beings. Why is this okay?

dot | 06 October 2014  

I suppose the real issue in the matter of euthanasia is ownership of human life. Neither parent of a human being has exclusive ownership of that person - each has contributed only one half of that life. Does an individual have exclusive ownership of his or her life? It is this question which is the nitty gritty of the justification of euthanasia on compassionate humane grounds. In a secular godless society there is no doubt that the answer has to be that euthanasia is clearly a matter for the individual to decide and that its prosecution is indeed humane. This is where, however, Christian and humanist society part ways. Ownership of each human life created by God in his image and distinct from all other life by the spiritual element (soul), given humankind by God, bestows some modicum of ownership of each and every human life on the God Creator. In Christian teaching and belief, then all human life belongs to God alone and He, not Man, is the one who determines life and death. The euthanasist is playing God in Christian parlance. Now that we no longer live in the great Christian Western society but in a humanist utopia, euthanasia is the new compassion. Going to have to get used to it and Christians might as well stop fighting the rear guard action. Should have had the guts to stick to their philosophy and belief in their God and become militant to support their cause, not set about destroying it in order to keep up with the modern world. In 45 years of practising surgery for all sorts of disease, painful , incurable etc, I was never once asked by a patient to "please put me down". I was asked by a number of potential inheritors, however, to help Grandma or whomever pass on peacefully and humanely!

john frawley | 06 October 2014  

Good point, Dot. This commentary by Canadian Ethicist Margaret Somerville proceeds along similar lines: "...we could kill the person with the pain or we could kill the pain. I'm adamantly against killing the person with the pain, that is, euthanasia, and passionately in favour of killing the pain. So, I argued that to implement that latter goal in practice, we should recognize that people in pain have a "fundamental human right" to have reasonable access to pain management and that unreasonable failure to provide such access was a breach of their human rights." http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/is_pain_relief_a_human_right/

Zac | 06 October 2014  

Thanks Bilal, I think you are right, though I hasten to add that most pro-euthanasia advocates do not have cost savings in mind. Unfortunately, once euthanasia becomes accepted public policy, a number of different 'stakeholders' will want to push it in different directions. I recall in the UK in 2008 Baroness Warnock, a prominent ethicist and government adviser commented that: "If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives – your family's lives – and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service [...] I'm absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there's a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they're a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2983652/Baroness-Warnock-Dementia-sufferers-may-have-a-duty-to-die.html I think that influential people wanting to push the envelope is part of the reason why euthanasia expands.

Zac | 06 October 2014  

Bilal raises a point which concerns me. As he (implicitly) says " What about involuntary euthanasia? ". How slippery is our moral slope? The Nazis were practicing this in hospitals right until the end of WW 2. That's right, it was doctors and nurses performing it on " the unfit" . Who judged " the unfit" ? A Brave New World is dawning. I don't think our " friends" in the "voluntary" suicide movement are helping.

Edward Fido | 06 October 2014  

All very complicated with a very simple solution - get on a flight to Mexico (not sure if they will allow you to buy a one-way ticket though).

AURELIUS | 06 October 2014  

As a former nurse, a current grief & bereavement/pastoral care and public health (end-of-life) practitioner I read this articles and these comments with interest. As a palliative care nurse I was occasionally asked by patients if I would help them end their lives. I never did and I also never abandoned them ... we wrestled with this deep existential struggle together for as long as they wished me to be present to it. I'm still curious as to why an-other would ask someone else to share responsibility in this act of killing. (I can appreciate that a prisoner is already dependent on others so this questioning does not apply to that person). Most people are not fearful of death, they are fearful of dying (slowly or otherwise). The issue of 'autonomy' seems to at stake and is mostly interpreted outside of the notion of 'relationship'. In a world where people are commodified, are seen as 'problems to be fixed', are 'dispensable', it isn't rocket science to see how societal values can slide into the slipstream of being 'disposable'. 'Autonomy' coupled with 'euthanasia' still requires a 'relationship' of some kind. Ultimately, there are consequences to everything. In my lifetime I have seen religions progressively hand the responsibility around the issue of euthanasia over to the legal and medical professions ... recovering a theological dimension [my next task through Master of Arts (Theol)] might just help another dialogue and approach unfold .....

mary | 06 October 2014  

Zac is right in this: "But the motivating forces of the modern euthanasia movement are individual autonomy and compassion for suffering" and John Frawley can argue that a life belongs to God, but as he says, most people have decided otherwise. I don't agree "that euthanasia could take on a momentum of its own" and refer Zac to his statement - it's compassion and autonomy that's driving the momentum. The changes with all of these issues - euthanasia, same-sex marriage, rascism, feminism etc - are a continuing working out of the best principles in our tradition - compassion, justice, inclusion. One could see these as Christian principles.

Russell | 06 October 2014  

As a callow youth in the 1950s I was opposed to euthanasia until I witnessed a highly intelligent man in his mid-forties dying of bowel cancer in a hospice for the dying. His wife and his daughter would come in every day to sit with him. I could only pray that God grant him and them a merciful release. He died within a week of admission and I thanked God. Euthanasia from that day onward was no longer a black and white issue. Why do we curtail a person's choice to die (or be killed voluntarily) and at the same time endorse our government's decision to send young men to war where they have licence to kill?

Uncle Pat | 06 October 2014  

Thanks for you response Zac. I was concerned that your article could be interpreted as a ‘slippery slope’ argument against all euthanasia. Your seventh para (the one beginning ‘Having worked in bioethics…) seems to me to confirm that view. Joseph’s comment could also be read in that way, although I’m not sure that he meant it that way. I was agreeably surprised at how long it took for one of my fellow commenters (Edward) to get to the ‘slippery slope’. I agree with you that ‘providing a state-sanctioned way for people “without hope or support” to end their lives is a less than ideal response’. I also agree with you that no state should be ‘offering euthanasia to mentally ill prisoners instead of providing psychiatric treatment’. But I don’t agree with you (if I read you correctly) that actual or potential abuse of the process is a valid reason to deny the ethical validity of all euthanasia. You provided a link to the Telegraph’s report of Warnock’s statements. May I commend Warnock’s actual article in the Norwegian journal as well worth reading. It can be found at < https://fagbokforlaget.no/filarkiv/Mary%20Warnock.pdf > ?

Ginger Meggs | 06 October 2014  

Interesting points, John. Even in a secular society there may still be pragmatic or ethically motivated attempts to encourage or discourage certain behaviours. There are many ways in which individual autonomy is routinely curtailed, everything from drug policy to seatbelt regulations. Whether these attempts to 'save people from themselves' are ultimately due to a religious foundation of our society is something I can't answer, unfortunately. Your observations as a surgeon are worrying. I share the concern that people's 'autonomous' decisions are open to influence and even coercion. I once heard a palliative care doctor describe the phenomenon of 'idiot compassion', which she defined as compassion motivated by our desire to no longer have to see someone suffer, regardless of what the suffering person might actually think or feel!

Zac | 06 October 2014  

John Frawley has summed it up neatly in his last two sentences. It seems to me that the most pain felt is with those watching on. Speaking generally, we have forgotten how to love and accompany people in pain or as their life draws to a close. To make an elderly or disabled person feel that they are a burden even indirectly, is the utmost cruelty. If you want a happy, pain-free life then you will be sorely disappointed. Pain in all it’s forms is part of the human condition and it is part of our journey to make each other’s burdens lighter, whatever that may entail. God bless all carers.

Jane | 06 October 2014  

I can not see a case in any situation where euthanasia is acceptable.

Paul Camilleru | 06 October 2014  

I've studied euthanasia, to some degree and don't at all feel comfortable about it becoming legal for the reasons expressed by Zac Alstin. Nevertheless, in this day and age we should be assured of having a pain and distress free dying period and death. That isn't necessarily so. Medicos and nurses vary in their concern and interpretation of patients's needs. My husband wanted and had a home death. While I was completely willing to grant his wish, I often look back with anguish at what we didn't know or expect and worry that we inadvertently prolonged his suffering. It took an inordinate amount of time for the palliative care team to come on board which was very distressing. If we do not want euthanasia to become a preferred option the health system has to do more than it is currently doing to ease the minds of loved ones.

Anna | 06 October 2014  

As septocemia seeped from my botched bowel cancer op june 2011, it was unilaterally decided by relevant hospital staff to 'let nature tale its course'. It was announced from my former parish pulpit,I had 2 days to live[all this euthanasia activity unknown to me,till providentially, a visiting Uni prof friend informed me,en passent of my coming denouement. I demanded he a visitor tell those staff responsible "God will decide my exit date not them"[and ratchet up thr antibiotics. The rest is history,with an esuing prolific apostolate of bedridden .cyber pen. apologetics,despite a bevvy of ileostomy accoutrements etc. Upon return to thr priests Retirement Villa, I was welcomed like Caesar entering Rome,themselves fed the hospital medical dogma the end was a mere matter of days!

Father John George | 06 October 2014  

'Acceptable' to whom, Paul?

Ginger Meggs | 06 October 2014  

'To make an elderly or disabled person feel that they are a burden even indirectly, is the utmost cruelty.' I would agree with you Jane, but I don't think 'making' is what Mary Warnock was talking about in the article I referenced.

Ginger Meggs | 06 October 2014  

John Frawley human life is now extended by doctors. People are not allowed to die. The natural process of the disease is denied. Despite my refusal of medical treatment making clear my wishes I was 'brought back' by the doctors despite the fact I an in end stage disease plus having several other severe medical issues. 'Saved' I was on your own. . My father-in-law had dementia. They put in a pace maker assuring him over and over life he would be independent. They knew this to be untrue and three years of hell for him in aged resulted. Should that pace maker have been put in? I do not know. I do know they wanted to discharge him immediately though there was no care in place, he had little vision, could hardly walk and was unable to manage his medication. His doctor, said: "I just put in pace makers.' A natural length of life is denied us. As Jennifer Worth says in her book, In the Midst of Life, if doctors will not let us die perhaps we will have to make the choice ourselves though I have until now been opposed to euthanasia seeing the potential for abuse.

dot | 07 October 2014  

Good morning, Dot. You are quite right. In this modern enlightened age Medicine has lost control of the treatment of the sick to vested interests. These interests are those of Medicine itself with the necessity to practice defensively for fear of being sued, as well as the demand from those unskilled and uneducated in Medicine who make demands driven by emotion. Ethics have been hi-jacked by those who have never borne the responsibility for a fellow human being's life or death - it is not a responsibility all can easily bear. In fact, I have known a number of doctors who have committed suicide in response to their own failures in losing or damaging another human life. But our society believes in the lunatics running the asylum in these troubled days! Doctors of my vintage were trained not to treat those as you so poignantly described here but to help them die with compassion. Such, incidentally is the Catholic position re end of life disease - the humanist position is the one which grasps the poisoned needle.

john frawley | 07 October 2014  

Thanks for the link Ginger Meggs. I believe Warnock's comments are dangerous because they help to form public opinion; though she might have in mind a particularly type of adamant individual, others who are influenced by such arguments as hers will not maintain the same clarity. You could characterise my concerns as 'slippery slope' heuristics, but slippery slopes are not always fallacious. If you have time, check out this paper by Eugene Volokh: www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/slipperyshorter.pdf Volokh identifies a number of mechanisms by which accepting a policy or decision 'A' can make the adoption of another policy or decision 'B' more likely. If one can provide clear reasons for why this shift from A to B might occur, then one is not committing a logical fallacy. I have argued in this piece that Belgium is a clear example of two of Volokh's mechanisms: 'attitude-altering' and 'small change tolerance', though the 'attitude-altering' side is the most evident. I have my own reasons for thinking that euthanasia is not ethical, but I don't expect many people to share them. What motivates me to write an article such as this is the concern that people are a) unaware such things are happening in Belgium, and b) ignorant of the fact that public attitudes will change, such that what we condemn today will seem much more acceptable once the public adjusts to the practice of euthanasia.

Zac | 07 October 2014  

Russell, you are of course free to disagree that "euthanasia could take on a momentum of its own", but I am curious as to how you then interpret the evidence provided in my article, in particular the comment by the co-chair of the euthanasia commission that 10 years of euthanasia has effectively shifted the boundaries of what is considered an appropriate instance of euthanasia? Compassion may be a good motive, but it is not so good at reasoning. Reading in detail the case of Nathan Verhelst, for example, it is clear that others close to him were likewise motivated by compassion, yet encouraged him to live, and to seek alternative surgical options in Thailand to repair his sex-change operation. Whose compassion is worth more: the friend who encouraged him to live and try other options, or the doctor who acceded to his wish to die? Ultimately, the 'compassion' might be the same, but the thinking behind the compassion is vitally different.

Zac | 07 October 2014  

Uncle Pat, fortunately palliative care has developed a great deal since the '50s. Unfortunately, as others here have attested, we are still doing too little to bring those benefits to bear for every person. There are systemic issues in the health system that need to be addressed. To be honest, the euthanasia debate is a distraction in this context. If we could genuinely improve end-of-life care across the board, then perhaps we could have a more practical debate on the issue.

Zac | 07 October 2014  

'In Christian teaching and belief, then all human life belongs to God alone and He, not Man, is the one who determines life and death. The euthanasist is playing God in Christian parlance. Now that we no longer live in the great Christian Western society but in a humanist utopia, euthanasia is the new compassion' [and, in a later post] 'the humanist position is the one which grasps the poisoned needle'. Should I take it then, John, that you are a pacifist and thus opposed to the taking of any human life in any circumstance?

Ginger Meggs | 07 October 2014  

"euthanasia has effectively shifted the boundaries of what is considered an appropriate instance of euthanasia" yes, well, life moves on. The same principles of justice, compassion and inclusion keep working while there's more to do. The anti-slavery impulse didn't stop when slavery was abolished. The laws against blacks marrying whites were later abolished, the segregation laws then had to go ... and on we go. The ongoing triumph of Christian principles.

Russell | 07 October 2014  

Good afternoon, Ginger Meggs. I am not opposed to the "taking of human life in any circumstance". I spent 40 years transplanting kidneys and turned off many ventilators maintaining artificial life in poor souls who could not survive because of brain death associated with irreversible brain damage. I have no problems with innocents who are attacked and defend their lives or the lives of those around them in a way which might take the life of the attacker. I have two true little anecdotes for you. 1. A colleague of mine had a 42yr old father of two dying of painful cancer of the pancreas. The patient pleaded with him to give him something to take his life painlessly. The surgeon placed a small bottle containing 5 tablets on the bedside table and said, "If the pain is too great, Bill, take these and you will have a beautiful, peaceful sleep." (The dose of tablets was not sufficient to kill the man but only to give him a good sleep). Six weeks later the wife rang the surgeon to say that her husband had died at home over night. The surgeon went to visit the family gathered around the man, dead in his bed. The bottle of five tablets was still siting on the bedside table unopened. 2. During dinner one night I was called urgently to the hospital to see an 82 year old lady with a massive internal haemorrhage. When I arrived in the hospital emergency the resident doctor, "Sorry. We tried to ring you but you had already left home. She had a cardiac arrest . We have got her heart going again but she will never survive the operation to stop the haemorrhage." I saw her anyway and told her that there was a massive operation available for her condition but I did not think she could survive. She said to me, "Well Doctor, if you think I should die I will be guided by you". I rushed her to the operating theatre and repaired her ruptured aorta. She came to visit me 6 weeks later and gave me a large Dairy Milk chocolate. He daughter said, "Thank you Doctor. Mum is the brain behind our family business and livelihood. We could never manage without her". So you see Ginger Meggs the doctors are not always right when they indulge in the business of deciding life and death (playing God in surgical parlance) and some patients are a darned sight smarter than their doctors sometimes. The human being rarely wants to die. Those that actively seek death are indeed very ill, not in a normal human place, and require psychiatric help in the main. ( There I go again - playing God, GM).

john frawley | 07 October 2014  

'...dangerous because they help to form public opinion'? Hmmm. That could be said about a lot of statements, Zac, many crafted with a lot less honesty and rigour than Warnock's, made by politicians, clerics, and other opinion-makers. OK, but what's the alternative? Ban 'dangerous speech' as Tony Abbott (and so often the Church) wants to do? Wrap the majority in a protective cocoon so that never have to deal with difficult problems? Or challenge it to a robust debate? I (and I think you too) favour the latter. But thanks for the link to Volokh; it was stimulating exposition of the mechanisms of 'slippery slopes'; If slippery slopes are the enemy, understanding them is a pre-requisite to defeating them. Where Volokh's paper is very academic, Mary Shariff has a more practical take on the subject, without minimising the importance of 'slippery slope diagnostics' as a tool to 'provoke a robust and earnest discussion'. You will find her paper here < http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&context=mary_shariff >

Ginger Meggs | 09 October 2014  

Thanks Ginger Meggs, that was an excellent paper. It is refreshing to see someone engaging with the slippery slope concept in such a constructive manner. In terms of 'dangerous speech' I don't really have a practical solution, which I suppose does leave me on the side of robust debate.

Zac | 09 October 2014  

The author has not distinguished between euthanasia, assisted suicide and the availability of access to safe means for people who wish to end their own life to do so. We have all seen speculative 'slippery slope' arguments before, but the author's ethical logic appears to have no place in it for the freedom of the individual's conscience or the distinction between the kind of assistance involved in providing means of access to an easier death for someone who quite rationally decides to end his or her suffering and the kind of assistance involved in 'active' (voluntary) euthanasia. Nor is their sufficient weighing of one risk against others. We are entitled to suspect that arguments of the kind presented have underlying them some moral prohibitions that have their source in something other than the wishes of the overwhelming majority of citizens in religiously pluralistic societies. Apologetics 101 is about sophistry in a 'good' cause, not the ethics of democracy, or the moral/political tyranny of the other 15%. As things stand, we have very limited psychiatric abilities, and palliative care is heavily rationed. Looking at one set of risks in isolation, in our skinflint society, doesn't cut the mustard.

Bob | 10 October 2014  

You raise some valid points Bob, and I certainly agree about the problem of palliative care rationing. However, I don't think it would be possible to address all the issues you've raised let alone all the fully relevant issues in the space of a single brief article. I am a little surprised though that you seem to regard my point as a 'speculative' slippery slope argument. It seemed fairly clear from Distelmans' comment that attitudinal change had indeed altered the Belgian response to more marginal cases of euthanasia over the past 10 years. Attitudinal change is one of several slippery slope mechanisms discussed in Eugene Volokh's excellent treatment of the subject: www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/slipperyshorter.pdf Ginger Meggs provided another excellent paper discussing the application of the slippery slope, its merits and limitations: http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&context=mary_shariff As for what underlies arguments, you are indeed entitled to be suspicious, but hopefully suspicion won't negate the principle of charity in argumentative discourse, nor prevent us facing substantive arguments on their own merits.

Zac | 10 October 2014  

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