Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Avi's Error

Avi Shafran has something predictable to say today about the Supreme Courts recent ruling on assisted suicide. His boring argument boils down to this: If we let doctors assist in the suicide of people who are terminally ill, soon we'll soon be killing healthy old people and infants, too.

This sort of "reasoning" traffics not in facts, but in fear mongering. It is a fallacious argument because there is no reason to believe that Avi's nightmare scenario inevitably follows from the court's ruling.

In fact, with only a bit of effort, I can construct an alternate nightmare scenario which is every bit as reasonable. First some background:

Oregon's "Death With Dignity Act" act permitted doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives. The Attorney General attempted to subvert the will of Oregon's voters by saying to Oregon's doctors: "If you assist with a suicide, you're prohibited from writing drug prescriptions." In the ruling Shafran disdains, the Court said the AG had over-reached.

Now suppose the Court had gone the other way. Suppose the Court had affirmed the power of the Attorney General to impose his personal values on the voters. Isn't it reasonable (using Avi's "logic") to worry that a different Attorney General with different personal values might one day use his Supreme Court sanctioned power to interfere with mila or kashrus?

Update: Avi's argument is both predictable, and recycled.

Hat Tip: Charles B. Hall