Tag Archives: James Park

Transdermal patches for a rational voluntary death?

James Park is one of our favourite contemporary philosophers, and like us he is a proponent of the right of people to decide on their own death. However, Park is seriously concerned about what he calls irrational suicide, that is people making an end to their life for futile reasons such losing a job or being rejected by their love, but if they had not chosen to die they would be able to recover from these setbacks and be able to live a happy life.

The problem, according to Park, is that most methods for voluntary death only require one decision: yes or no. And once the decision to commit suicide, a point of no return has been passed. It would be better in his opinion if people who want to die should use a method which would require multiple decisions. This would force people to consider whether their original desire for a voluntary death is actually what they want.

Park therefore proposes voluntary death by dehydration as a method for a rational voluntary death, i.e. the refusal of drinking water by a person with the intent of ending one’s life. Because death in this fashion is not instantaneous and require a period of at least several days, during which the person has to consistently to refuse water, this method precludes its use in an impulse suicide.

He then puts forward several arguments in favour of this method. First this method does not depend on doctors, and that it could be used by everyone. Also he states that no change of law is required, but this depends on the jurisdiction where one lives and in many countries doctors will put you on intensive care if you has lost your consciousness (but not yet your life) in this way.

But most important is his claim that this method is relatively painless. But this claim is highly questionable, and evidence suggests that voluntary dehydration does cause great suffering. But given that most people will agree with Park’s concern about irrational suicide, could we design a humane but slow method of voluntary death?

I think the answer might be found in transdermal patches. Unlike pills or potions, transdermal patches are designed to administer low doses of a drug to the body over a longer period of time. A well-known example of such devices are nicotine patches, but another example are contraceptive patches and there are several other applications.

What properties should the drug used in this type of transdermal patch have? First, the drug should be able to permeate through the skin into the blood stream. Second, the drug should have a long biological half-life, i.e. the rate in which the body removes this drug should be lower than the rate in which it is administered and hence enables a build-up of the drug in the body. Third, the drug should have a high lethal dose. This means that a large amount of drug should be present in the body before death will occur, this will prolong the time between the attachment of the patch and ultimate death.

A fourth but very important property would be that until the lethal threshold level is reached, the drug should have no or only minimal side effects. And as fifth and final property, is that if the patch is removed before the point of no return, total recovery is possible.

These properties together will ensure that the use of transdermal patches as a method for voluntary death, will not lead to irrational suicides.

In order to guarantee a responsible distribution of these patches, we propose that these devices will only be available through a thanatologist (a medical profession proposed by A. C. Grayling, specialized in euthanasia in order to free other medical personal from this practice). People should be certain that patches provided by licensed thanatologists are save and reliable. An additional benefit is that when a person requests a patch, the thanatologist can have a conversation with this person on why one wants put an end to his or her life, and whether this is the only solution.

The Ideal Space Settler?

American philosopher James Park has written a document in which he outlines criteria for selecting immigrants for the USA. In this post I want to discuss what characteristics are desirable in prospective Space settlers. Since launch capacity is limited, only a few hundreds or thousands of people will be able to immigrate to Space colonies each year (at least this will be the case during the early years, when Space settlements will develop this capacity will raise). Therefore good criteria for selecting settlers for new Space colonies will be even more important.

What are Park’s criteria for selecting new immigrants? His article gives the following list:

1.  LANGUAGE ABILITIES

2.  OCCUPATIONAL SKILLS

3.  BUSINESS ABILITIES AND CAPITAL

4.  CREATIVE TALENTS

5.  EDUCATION

6.  FAMILY CONNECTIONS AND OTHER SUPPORT SYSTEMS

7.  MINOR CHILDREN INCLUDED IN THE IMMIGRANT FAMILY

8.  NOT BEING A CRIMINAL

9.  SELECTING THE VERY BEST APPLICANTS

10.  LOTTERY AS AN ALTERNATIVE

11.  CONCLUSION: THE BEST PEOPLE ON EARTH

I will discuss this points one by one.

Language

Not surprisingly Park argues that new American immigrants should be able to understand and use English. However, there is no reason to assume that  English will be the official language of a Space colonies. We have discussed the issue of language and Space colonization in a previous post.

Occupational skills

This one is of particular interest. Space settlements are in need of a wide variety of occupational skills. Unlike present day America, Space settlements has to start with zero population.Therefore every job opening has to be filled by an immigrant, simple because are no unemployed Space settlers. Even more than in the USA immigrants has to be selected for relevant skills, we do need five hundred psychologists but a few physicians are very welcome. Especially we need people with practical and technical skills.

Business abilities and capital

It would be fine if people with business abilities and capital will join the Space movement, however it is not necessary that these people will join the first few shifts of immigrants. People willing to invest their capital in Space colonization can do that through donations and loans, and can use their business abilities to organise the Space movement. However this can be done from Earth as long as Space settlements are in their infancy.

Creative talents

This one is very important. Because Space settlers are subject to unexpected situation creativity is key to survival in Space. Therefore selecting prospective settlers on their creativity is not only a good idea, it is of vital importance.

Education

Having completed an education is not only important for the specific skills one has acquired, but is also proof that someone has the ability to learn new things. Further by being educated someone also demonstrates having the discipline to complete certain tasks.

Family connections

In isolated small communities like a Space settlement with a few hundred residents, inbreeding is a huge problem. For this reason alone, being a relative of an existing Space settler should be a contra-indication for selection. The risks of inbreeding do not weigh up to the benefits of having relatives in a Space colony.

Yes, we acknowledge those benefits. If you have family in another country you will adapt to your new country faster, because you are supported by people you know and love. However, for existing countries with large populations such as the US inbreeding is not a real concern, since such countries already have a diverse gene pool.

Minor children

For practical reasons it would be better if Space settlements should select immigrants who haven’t children, yet. Preferentially immigrants are either young (between age 18 and 40) singles or childless couples. We believe it would be better if Space settlers will found a family after immigration to Space.

Children, especially the very youngest, might suffer from extreme stress as a result of immigration from Earth to Space. The trip from Earth to the Lagrange points of the Sun-Earth system will take month, during which the immigrants will be subjected to low or zero gravity (in the space habitats there will be artificial gravity). Such a long period of zero gravity will have enormous effects on the health of children and might be dangerous for them.

Given that it would be better for Space settlers to found a family after immigration, so that their children can grow up within artificial gravity, we should limit immigration opportunities of people above the age of forty. However, there should be no immigration ban for those category, but we should prefer young adults, although the presence a few middle-aged person will be desirable.

Not being criminal

This one is really obvious. The last thing we need in a Space settlement are murderers, (serial) rapists, paedophiles, terrorists, all kinds of violent robbers etcetera. Only people who are able of peaceful cooperation are welcome in our new societies. All prospective Space settlers should be able to prove their lack of a criminal record. Once it has been discovered one has lied about his criminal record, that person should be expelled from the settlement.

I will discuss the topic of criminal justice and space colonization in a future post, for now you can read this post.

Selecting the very best immigrants

The question whether we should select the very best immigrants, or should immigrant just be sufficiently good? I think we should opt for the latter, albeit our standards should be quite high.

A particular concern of James Park is preventing a brain drain from other countries. Given the fact that due to limited launch capacity only a few hundred people can immigrate to Space Settlements. So the Space movement has not to worry about a possible brain drain.

Lottery as alternative(?)

James Park suggest to use lottery instead of the criteria mentioned above. However we would argue to use lottery in addition to those criteria. After all, there are much more people who would qualify than could be reasonable transported into Outer Space. Lottery would give each potential immigrant an equal chance of being selected.

Our selection process will be a two-step procedure. First prospective settlers will checked whether they met our criteria, if they qualify they will be admitted to the next step. The second step will a lottery. If for instance a hundred people can be transported to a Space settlement, and say five thousand applicants are qualifying, then from their names one hundred will be randomly selected.

Additional Criteria

Since emigrating to a Space Settlement is quite different from to the US, we should have a few additional criteria. As explained in a previous post, we believe that prospective should be vegetarians. People who really like to eat meat, should not apply. Further people should sign a pledge that they subscribe our value, especially that they support our commitment to Republicanism, Liberalism, Secularism and Humanism. People who don’t like these principles should either found their own space colonization group or they should stick here on Earth.