The Right to Physician-Assisted Suicide

“We are all going.” –William McKinley[1]

            President McKinley’s last words were and are true. Everyone dies. This truth may incite fear in some; some may feel joy, while others still may feel indifferent toward the notion of death. Yet no matter how people feel about death, they will all face it. In the time we are given we want to choose how to live our lives and, legally, the right to live the way we choose is assured. A modern day question, and the topic of this paper, is whether we ought to have the legal right to choose how we die as well.

This idea of halting medical assistance to allow a patient to die peacefully conforms to the mindset behind legislation in France which says that when medicine serves “no other purpose than the artificial support of life [it can be] suspended or not undertaken.” [2] Indeed, in other areas of the world, the right to physician-assisted suicide is not a debate. Luxemburg, The Netherlands, and Switzerland all offer avenues in which a terminally ill patient may seek out physician-assisted suicide.

            In July of 2011, 55% of respondents to a survey of American citizens said that they were in favor of physician-assisted suicide as an option for terminally ill patients. The survey asked over 6,000 respondents of various age groups and from locations all over the United States about their opinions. The survey polled citizens from ages 18 to late-80s. The survey was not confined to a specific socio-economic class or ethnic group. The result was very clear: a majority of Americans are not opposed to physician-assisted suicide.[3]

            This result is not abnormal in the modern world. Polls around the globe suggest that people are becoming increasingly supportive of the right to physician-assisted suicide, but their governments’ laws do not reflect this. In 2007 a British Social Attitudes report surveyed 3,000 citizens of the UK to find that 80% supported voluntary euthanasia. Since then, the UK has not adopted any new laws to allow physician-assisted suicide or take previous laws banning the practice off the books.[4] The situation is similar in Australia. In 2009 a Roy Morgan poll commissioned by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NSW (New South Wales) found that 85% of Australians supported voluntary euthanasia. Another poll published by News Limited in 2010 suggested that 78% of Australians wanted the laws banning euthanasia in Australia off the books.[5]

Despite this fact, only three U.S. states have adopted laws that allow terminally ill patients the option of physician-assisted suicide. In a country that prides itself on individual liberties, why are there laws in place in 47 states that prevent people from a medical option that can save them from pain and suffering toward the end of their life? The right to die is a fundamental one. Physician- assisted suicide ought to be a protected legal option available to all terminally ill patients in America.

            Those who oppose the right to physician-assisted suicide would argue that legal protection for the option is contrary to American tradition, and that there is no text in the Constitution that would support a federal government initiative to ensure the right. The only other argument that can be made is a moral one: the result of the law would be an undesirable one. However, the only people this would directly affect would be the people that desire that specific result.

            We can first refute the arguments that there is nothing in the Constitution that can support the right to physician-assisted suicide. The Ninth Amendment clearly states; “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”[6] In other words, just because a right is not specifically written down in the Constitution doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. On the contrary, if there is a question of whether a right exists or not when it is not enumerated in the Constitution, it is to be assumed that the right does exist. In this case, the argument that physician-assisted suicide should not be a right because it isn’t in the Constitution fails due to the Ninth Amendment.

            The tradition argument can be countered in multiple ways, firstly, by referring to America’s pre-eminent document on what America stands for: The Declaration of Independence. If the Declaration of Independence is to be taken as a document detailing America’s most basic values then it should hold significant bearing on any tradition argument. The Declaration asserted that all men were created equal with certain “unalienable rights”[7] which included “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”[8].

            This matters because in the case of terminally ill patients, sometimes liberty and the pursuit of happiness are best served by having the option to end one’s own life. One of America’s strongest and longest-standing traditions is the value of individual liberty and ability to make choices on how to run one’s own life. Allowing the option expands the liberty of the individual to choose how to run their life. Likewise, if terminally ill patients are facing immense suffering over the course of months before passing away, it makes sense that they could be happier if they have the choice to pass away without encountering the pain that comes with their fatal disease.

            There is not much in the way of precedent that relates directly to the right to physician-assisted suicide at this time. The strongest precedent in favor of the right to die comes from the Montana Supreme Court which ruled in Baxter v. Montana that physician-assisted suicide was not in conflict with any law they already had on the books.[9] The original lawsuit was brought by four physicians working in Montana and Robert Baxter, a 76 year old truck driver dying of leukemia. The Montana district court decided that there was a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide, but this decision was appealed to the state supreme court. Robert Baxter died of complications from the leukemia before the state supreme court made its decision. In December of 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in favor of physician-assisted suicide asserting that “nothing in Montana Supreme Court Precedent or Montana statutes indicated that physician aid in dying is against public policy.”[10]

In Gonzales v. Oregon, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Federal Government could not regulate the option away from states that had already decided in favor of physician-assisted suicide.[11] Attorney General John Ashcroft argued that the federal Controlled Substance Act could stop states from allowing doctors to prescribe medicine that would be used for suicide. The majority opinion, as authored by Justice Kennedy, found that while the federal government did have power to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, it did not have the power to regulate how legal medicine is to be used within states.[12] This ruling significantly strengthens a state’s ability to choose to have physician-assisted suicide as an option within the state.

On top of that, Supreme Court cases regarding contraceptives and abortions, two topics that involve the right to privacy, can be used as precedent to support the right to physician-assisted suicide. Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade are prime examples of how the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of individual liberties over moral objections. If stare decisis is followed by the members of the Supreme Court, then the right to physician-assisted suicide could logically follow the decisions made in these cases.

In 1965, the Supreme Court heard the case of Griswold v. Connecticut. The Griswold case is a question of the right to contraceptives.[13] In the early sixties, Connecticut had a law on the books that made it a crime to use contraceptives. By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court overturned the Connecticut law. Justice Douglas wrote in the majority opinion that, while there was nothing in the Bill of Rights that directly allocated the right to privacy to all American citizens, there was enough evidence to suggest that individual privacy was an implied goal within the Constitution. Concurring opinions written by Justice Goldberg and Harlan argued that the right to privacy could be found within the purpose of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments respectively.

Griswold is significant because it is the first Supreme Court decision where a majority agreed that there was a fundamental right to privacy. This right to privacy has had staying power within Supreme Court precedence ever since. When an earlier test case came before the Supreme Court for the same issue, it was handed down, but in his dissent, Justice Harlan asserted that “The full scope of liberty guaranteed by the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in the Constitution.”[14] This argument is the same as the Constitutional argument for the right to physician-assisted suicide.

In 1973, the Supreme Court released its decision on Roe v. Wade, one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in history due to the impact of the decision on pre-natal life. Though the moral implications are still being questioned today, the court’s decision, a solid 7-2, found that a woman’s right to medical privacy pre-empted state interests in protecting pre-natal life.[15] This is significant because the right to privacy that was introduced in Griswold is expanded to cover privacy in the context of medical decisions. The right to physician-assisted suicide is a medical decision. Like with the use of contraceptives and abortions, physician-assisted suicide is viewed as immoral by some groups. However, in Supreme Court precedent, privacy, specifically medical privacy, has been accepted as more important than moral objections.

            In order to understand how important the link between the Roe v. Wade precedent, the Griswold v. Connecticut precedent, and the issue of physician-assisted suicide is, it is necessary to review the history of the right to privacy. The right to privacy was first introduced to America’s jurisprudence through the writings of Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren.[16] The two wrote about the right to privacy in the context that, in the modern world, when considering technological advancements, it is necessary to accept that there are new fundamental rights that should be protected that never needed to be protected before. The arguments that were made in favor of the right to privacy were largely policy arguments that asserted that, without a fundamental right to privacy, the government and other people could get into people’s lives at will without restriction. In modern day, the right to privacy has been extended to medical privacy where individuals’ medical decisions belong to them alone and should not be made by the government. Roe v. Wade, and the subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey[17], established that medical privacy is a fundamental right to the degree that the government cannot dictate that a woman must carry a pregnancy to term.

            If the government cannot force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, can the government force a terminally ill patient to suffer and die when there is a medical option to prevent the suffering? Past precedent on medical privacy seems to suggest that the government ought not to have this power. To the contrary; the precedent involving the right to privacy seems to suggest that patients should always have the final say on medical decisions that are made. If this interpretation of the precedent is to be accepted, then it will fit well with the public opinion on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. Some critics of the Supreme Court have argued that the court can rule against public opinion without having to answer to anyone. In this case, the Supreme Court does not risk such controversy.

            It ought to be addressed that there is Supreme Court precedent that does not conform to the argument that the right to physician-assisted suicide is a fundamental right. In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the ban on physician-assisted suicide in the state of Washington was constitutional. Washington v. Glucksburg resulted in a decision that is clearly contrary to the legal acceptance of the right to die[18].

            The original case came out of Washington in 1996. Dr. Harold Glucksburg, a number of physicians, and a handful of terminally ill patients challenged Washington’s state-wide ban on physician-assisted suicide. They argued that assisted suicide was a fundamental due process right that was protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court that heard the case originally ruled in favor of Glucksburg. When the case came before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals it was reversed, but after the court heard the case again en banc, the Ninth Circuit also ruled in favor of Glucksburg. When the Supreme Court heard the case, however, they ruled against Glucksburg, citing traditions arguments.[19]

The decision in Washington v. Glucksburg was come to through the influence of precedent and tradition arguments. The Supreme Court in Moore v. City of East Cleveland asserted that when determining substantive due process rights, there are limits that must be drawn from “respect for the teachings of history [and] solid recognition of the basic values that underlie our society.”[20] In Washington v. Glucksburg, the majority opinion cited the Moore case as its precedent reasoning behind its decision. This is important because we can see that the reasoning behind the Washington v. Glucksburg opinion hinges on the tradition argument primarily.

            As has been addressed, the tradition argument against physician-assisted suicide has some flaws. The argument fails to take into account competing traditions, evolving mindsets, or a clear infringement on medical privacy rights already recognized. In fact, in less than ten years after this case was heard in the Supreme Court, the state of Washington voted on and approved the Washington Death with Dignity Act, a state law allowing physician-assisted suicide.[21] Pursuant to these weaknesses within the tradition argument, the Washington v. Glucksburg argument is weak. This precedent ought to be overturned and replaced with precedent finding in favor of the right to physician-assisted suicide and the continuation of precedence on medical privacy rights.

            Precedent and a new evolving tradition are not the only things we should take into account. If we consider the policy implications on both sides it is very clear what decision is right for American citizens. If states can ban access to a medical procedure that is specifically designed to prevent people from suffering without directly affecting any other person, then what else can the government do in the realm of making medical decisions for patients? On the other hand, if we allow terminally ill patients to make the decision to end their lives before they suffer, then the result would be that terminally ill patients could prevent the suffering that they are facing. It is as simple as that. In evaluating whether these two results are acceptable, it is necessary to consider the positives and the negatives for both possibilities.

The result of a ban on physician-assisted suicide has the positive aspect of ensuring that no terminally ill patients have the risk of being euthanized against their will. Gerald Dworkin, an expert on ethics in medicine wrote, “The moment we begin to define who can and cannot die, we are ultimately leading ourselves to new questions of who should and should not die. This is the same reasoning behind the eugenics movement and argument that spawned such horrors as the Holocaust.”[22] Dworkin’s hyperbolic language is unfounded, as the evidence suggests: laws allowing physician-assisted suicide correlate with less unwilling euthanasia incidents.[23] The negative aspects include the fact that terminally ill patients have certain medical options that are not available to them; their right to medical privacy is infringed to the extent that the government requires them to either be treated for an incurable disease or waste away until they die when they could avoid undue suffering. Under the ban, terminally ill patients would not be given the dignity to choose to avoid immense suffering, nor would the full extent of liberty be available to them.

            If the right to physician-assisted suicide was assured, the negative aspects may include negative reactions from family-members of the terminally ill patients if they are not in favor of the policy. If the physician-assisted suicide laws reflect those that have been accepted in states like Washington and Oregon already, then the risk of terminally ill patients being euthanized against their will is eliminated. The positive aspects include the fact that the right to medical privacy would be protected. Terminally ill patients would have the right to choose whether to struggle and suffer or to end their lives before facing such pain. Terminally ill patients would be treated with dignity, without government involvement denying crucial medical options to them.

            Terry Pratchett, the author of the personal documentary “Choosing to Die,” compared the thought of dying to a metaphorical cliff, saying, “I live in hope that I can jump before I am pushed.”[24] Death is a natural part of life, as is suffering. For thousands of years people have had the means to end their own life in favor of suffering fatal diseases. Governments, being entirely human institutions, are distinctly unnatural in the course of an individual’s medical decision making. While we have evidence to suggest that a majority of Americans favor the right to physician-assisted suicide, this does not mean that every individual is planning on utilizing the right. Terry Pratchett’s documentary on physician-assisted suicide ends with him witnessing a man take a prescribed drink that puts him to sleep and then stops his heart.

The scene is a somber one. The man is surrounded by his loved ones and his wife is by his side. After being asked twice if he is sure he wants to go through with the action, and confirming, he takes the drink. The man indicates that the drink did not taste very good and takes a sip of water. His wife makes a comment about how, throughout their marriage, she would always rub his hand until he fell asleep at night. We see her rubbing his hand and staring into his eyes. After about a minute, the man closes his eyes and begins to snore. After another minute or two passes, his snoring quiets and eventually falls silent.[25]

After the scene, Terry looked visibly shaken. He made a comment about having seen “the bravest man” he had ever known. Toward the end Terry admits that he does not know if he has the courage to take that final leap. Despite this, he asserts that he firmly believes that an individual’s right to make that choice is fundamental. He ends his documentary by saying that he intends to spend his final years fighting for that right in his home country of England.[26]

            Requiring individuals to suffer through terminal illnesses, and denying them the right to physician-assisted suicide is contrary to America’s founding texts. A ban does not allow for the rights of “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness.” On the contrary, it denies individuals these most fundamental rights. Denying the right of physician-assisted suicide is contrary to the holdings in Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey– a Supreme Court case that largely upheld the decision in Roe v. Wade, thereby making the precedent even firmer.[27] All of these cases iterated the necessity of privacy and individual liberties. All of these cases are controversial to the degree that the decisions associated with them possibly affect the rights of more than just the individual who is making the medical decision; however, in the case of physician-assisted suicide, it is clear that there is only one life that hangs in the balance. There is only one person’s rights that need protections.

            A ban on physician-assisted suicide was never within the intent of the founders. Though many of the founding fathers were pious Christians who may have frowned on suicide, the clear motive behind their early works was ensuring individual liberty. The clear intention of the founders, both Federalists and Anti-Federalists, was to create a new nation where people were afforded the greatest amount of liberty possible. In our modern age, we should not reject a fundamental right that is a part of the liberty that the founders intended us to have. The founders were also invested in creating a democratic government that would create laws that reflect the needs and wants of the people. If the Truven polls are correct, then the government needs to do more to ensure that the right to physician-assisted suicide is guaranteed, because that is what Americans want. The policy to allow physician-assisted suicide is a good one. If allowed, the result would be the attribution of a fundamental right to choose one’s fate in the face of terminal illnesses. This would allow greater liberty and less of a government influence in an individual’s medical decision-making.

            The most cited argument against the proposal to allow physician-assisted suicide is that the right to die has never been traditionally considered as a fundamental right. The counter-argument is two-fold. To a certain degree there is a competing tradition that comes in the form of individual liberties. Liberty is chief among America’s most important values, and has been since the founding. In supporting individual liberties, but denying the right to physician-assisted suicide, American tradition is contradicting itself on the point. The second counter-argument is that there is a new emerging tradition. As the Truven Health Analytics survey shows, a majority of Americans now favor the right to physician-assisted suicide.[28] This matters because it reflects that Americans today favor the tradition of individual liberties as well as showing a new opinion about what those individual liberties include.

            The right to physician assisted suicide is a fundamental right. America’s culture is ever-evolving. If there are any founding values that America holds dear it is the value of individual choice, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The text shows the intent of the founders, traditions are evolving, the precedent is set, and the common-sense policy is clear. When the precedent, text, public opinion, tradition, and policy are all on one side, the law ought to reflect it. Whether through the courts, or through the legislature, the United States should ensure that all terminally ill patients have the right to die with dignity.

 


[1] Scott Miller, The President and the Assassin. New York: Random House. (2011). p. 320 

[2] McDougall, Jennifer Fecio; Gorman, Martha (2008). Contemporary World Issues: Euthanasia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.

[3] Truven Health Analytics, Health Poll: Physician Assisted Suicide. (2012, December) retrieved 1/28/13 from http://healthcare.thomsonreuters.com/npr/assets/NPR_reports_PhysicianAssistedSuicide_1212.pdf

[4] Most Support Voluntary Euthanasia (2007, January 24). BBC News. Retrieved 4/2/13 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6293695.stm

[5] Euthanasia Billboard Approved (2010, October 4) The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4/2/13 from http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/euthanasia-billboard-approved-20101004-162×7.html

[6] U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendment 9.

[7] Declaration of Independence

[8] id

[9] Baxter v. Montana (2009) Montana Supreme Court. MT DA 09-0051

[10] Id.

[11] Gonzales v. Oregon (2006). United States Supreme Court. 546 U.S. 243

[12] Id.

[13] Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) United States Supreme Court. 381 U.S. 479

[14] Poe v. Ullman, (1961) United States Supreme Court. 367 U.S. 497

[15] Roe v. Wade, (1973) United States Supreme Court. 410 U.S. 113

[16] Louis Brandeis & Samuel Warren, The Right to Privacy, Harvard Law Review vol. IV no. 5 (1890).

[17] Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, (1992) United States Supreme Court. 505 U.S. 833

[18] Washington v. Glucksburg (1997). United States Supreme Court. 531 U.S. 702

[19] Id.

[20] Moore v. City of East Cleveland (1977). United States Supreme Court. 431 U.S. 494

[21] The Washington Death with Dignity Act (2008) retrieved 4/1/13 from https://wei.sos.wa.gov/agency/osos/en/Documents/I1000-Text%20for%20web.pdf

[22] Dworkin, Gerald, et al. (2004) Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: For and Against. Cambridge University Press. P. 177

[23] CJ Ryan, Pulling up the Runaway: The Effect of New Evidence on Euthanasia’s Slippery Slope. “Euthanasia in The Netherlands” Vol. 25 pp. 60

[24] Terry Pratchett, (2011) Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die. Retrieved 3/5/13 from http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/terry-pratchett-choosing-to-die/

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, (1992) United States Supreme Court. 505 U.S. 833

 

[28] Truven Health Analytics, Health Poll: Physician Assisted Suicide. (2012, December) retrieved 1/28/13 from http://healthcare.thomsonreuters.com/npr/assets/NPR_reports_PhysicianAssistedSuicide_1212.pdf

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CNU Bucket List

As I have been spending my last couple years at CNU, I have been developing my bucket list. …Now I don’t mean to say I’m going to die anytime soon. I actually think I’ll live forever, based on what I have experienced so far, I have little to suggest otherwise. But I digress…

The purpose of this bucket list is to be able to check off things I definitely want to do before I leave CNU. I can’t think of a student here that does not have a CNU bucket list. Some people want to lead a church small group before their graduations, others want to be able to say that they did some love-making with someone in every residence hall on campus, still others want to be able to say that they knew President Trible personally by the end of their senior year.

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 (By the way: Paul, if you are reading this- let’s do a poker night again real soon.)

By the time I am done with school at CNU I want to be able to say that I:

  1. Had a splash-fight in the CNU fountain next to the Luter School of Business
  2. Beat my girlfriend (at least one time) in a legitimate game of tennis
  3. Had a recognizable name on campus due to my writing
  4. Represented the CNU Student Honor Council well through-out my tenure in the organization
  5. Made a legitimate and delicious dinner in my apartment
  6. Ended poverty.

Other optional goals include, but are not limited to:

–          Getting married and then accepted into Catholic seminary school.

–          Representing CNU in the Ultimate Frisbee World Championship.

–          Actually losing at UNO.

–          Creating a teleportation device so that I can visit my family in Maine on a daily basis.

Just like in life, there simply is not enough time to do everything that you want to do while at CNU. I’d love to be the president of three organizations, but unlike in high school, if you want your organizations to succeed, you really can’t head more than one. This lack of time and realistic restrictions on what you are able to do in your time at CNU can seem constricting. However, the triumph of success and the meeting of goals at CNU can be the greatest feelings of your life. 

Valentine’s Day

It’s that day again.

You know, that day where all the single guys, all the single girls, and most of the guys who are in relationships groan and complain about the dumbest of holidays. 

Valentine’s Day is only as important as your enthusiasm lets it. If you want to go all out to make someone’s day, then Valentine’s Day can be pretty fun. If you don’t care then Valentine’s Day just turns into another one of those Catholic martyr holidays about guys who died horrible deaths thousands of years ago.

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         I’m not lion when I say, it was harsh…

And those that detest the holiday find special irony in the fact that the patron saint of lovers was so well acquainted with pain and suffering. St. Valentine has widely been accepted by the church as dying after being imprisoned and tortured while visiting Rome (When in Rome…). That said, there are debates about nearly every detail of St. Valentine’s life; from what he did, to who he was, to even the question of if he was one person, two people, or no one at all. Then again, judging by the standards by which someone becomes a saint, I could be made a saint thousands of years from now after all the details of my life get confused and then glorified.

But I digress…

At CNU there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of students that view Valentine’s Day moderately. People either go out to dinner, make cards, write sappy poems and light some candles, or they complain about people that go out to dinner, make cards, write sappy poems and light some candles on Tumblr.

But I would argue that, violent torture deaths and Tumblr aside, we should all embrace Valentine’s Day. The only downside to the day is the downside we make out of it (if we choose to). If you’re single on Valentine’s Day, this is your one day to ask someone out at random and you have no risk of making it look creepy. If they say no or look at you funny you just shrug and say, “Happy Valentine’s Day”. Perfect cover: You’re just festive.

If you’re not ballsy, then use the day as a chance to catch up with the family. Call your mom, dad, sister, brother, cat and let them know that you care. I called my mom to say “hi” yesterday. I felt good afterward. You probably would to.

If you’re not ballsy and you don’t have a family then just go to the grocery store, pick up some chocolate fondue and some strawberries. Return to your home and proceed to dip the strawberries in the chocolate. Before taking a bite, reflect upon the beauty of the melted chocolate dripping off the juicy red strawberry. As you eat your chocolate covered strawberries, you’ll realize that there is always something to love on Valentine’s Day.

Service at CNU

                It was just this year that I took the position of Community Service Chair for Phi Alpha Delta (The International Pre-Law Fraternity). CNU’s chapter of Phi Alpha Delta is modest, but filled with people who have the common goal of getting into Law School. Phi Alpha Delta offers many different benefits for students looking to go into Law School, from unique visits with Lawyers, judges and Law School Admission Deans, to volunteering opportunities.

                Just this year I’ve worked to set up CNU’s Phi Alpha Delta with the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. The Legal Aid Society offers legal assistance to people who cannot afford to hire an attorney to help them with such legal issues as writing a will, getting a divorce, or bankruptcy assistance. I as well as a number of other Phi Alpha Delta members now volunteer at the Hampton office at least once a week.

                This type of service is beneficial on multiple levels. Not only do the Phi Alpha Delta members get real-world experience in a legal office dealing with real issues, they are also helping people who have a serious need. While I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering at the office I have done everything from opening and closing cases, to drafting letters for clients and I’ve even had the opportunity to sit in on an attorney-client meeting. The Phi Alpha Delta members and I have been able to learn, first-hand, how lawyer-client interactions take place, the kind of work attorneys do on a day-by-day basis, and we even get the chance to see what kind of civil law looks most interesting to us.

                In the mean time, we are helping people that would be helpless without us. The attorneys at Legal Aid have their hands full and anything that we can do to lighten their load gives them a chance to help more people. Some of these people are in desperate need of some financial relief through bankruptcy; others have had a bad split with their spouses that they want to legally move on from, some of them just want to make sure that what they leave for their children when they pass will actually go to them. The people that Legal Aid (with the help of Phi Alpha Delta members like myself) assists are so thankful that someone is willing to help them, that it is not unheard of that they get emotional when they thank the attorneys for the help.

                All service that CNU students partake in is meaningful, but it can be rare to actually see the positive impact that the service is making. I count myself as lucky and honored to take part in serving people in such a way that I can see the impact I make.

Complete

The simple pleasure of your company goes beyond simplicity.
Like the incomprehensible vastness of space, I feel overwhelmed.
Your eyes are hypnotizing and memorizing.
And I lose myself as I lose my balance and fall into your arms.

I’ve never known a heart to beat so akin to mine
With a passion I couldn’t conceive until I held you.
And when I kiss your lips, my joy threatens to burst forth
like fireworks of desire as loud as my laughter.

It’s with humility I must admit, I just can’t understand
How I could find myself with someone so beautiful,
Who loves me through the challenges,
And makes me feel complete.

…And We’re Back

There’s a big difference between January in Maine and January in Newport News, Virginia. As winter winds whipped over the rocky coast of New England, I spent my Christmas Break sleeping in, working now and then, and relaxing by the fire reading “Game of Thrones”.  I soaked in the relaxation while I could. I knew that when I got back to CNU, things were going to get tough fast.

I was right.

In the first full week of classes I turned in 3 papers, 3 page-long assignments, and I took two quizzes. The next week I have 4 papers due and at least one quiz to take. At the same time I have volunteering to do, work, and practice. If it sounds like a lot, I can assure you that it is.

As with each semester at CNU, the professors have high expectations of their students. My business professor is all about ensuring we get as much out of each class as possible, already she starts class a couple minutes early and goes until the very last minute, trying to give us as much information as possible while we’re there.

Over break I knew that I would return to late nights and early mornings. I didn’t think of it with dread or apprehension, on the contrary; I was excited to transition back to the intensity of academic challenge. By your sixth semester at CNU you know that you will get what you put in to the semester, give it your all and you’ll end the semester proud.

You’ll find everyone feels about the same when it comes to the beginning of the semester. You pass a buddy who was in your Honors class and ask him, “How’s your semester shaping up?” He’ll respond: “It’s going to be crazy. I’m going to be so busy.” You ask him, “you pumped?” to which he responds, “yup!”

In the eternal words of the Black Eyed Peas, “Let’s get it started.”

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Sorry.

Why Ayn Rand’s Writing is a Detriment to Society

Perhaps it was fate that would compel my parents to bestow me with a name with initials that reverse those of Ayn Rand. I can attribute my smug satisfaction with this fact to my evolving opinion of Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism,” as she referred to it, is a philosophy that has been widely accepted in the corporate world and in the far-right wing of the political spectrum. Many companies make Rand’s writings a required reading for all employees and the current vice presidential candidate for the Republicans (Paul Ryan) cites Ayn Rand as his inspiration in economics.

Yet the philosophy that Ayn Rand coined goes contrary to all previous advancement of the human race and reduces the importance of  a cooperative society. Objectivism in its own name asserts its superiority over all other human perceptions. In the realm of ethics, Rand focused on the concept of rational self-interest. She made the argument that all human beings ought to work for their own self-interest first and foremost. In her opinion a man who loved others before himself would be considered immoral.

“If society is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” -Ayn Rand

Rand’s heroic characters portrayed in her novels are entrepreneurs who climb their way to the top of their respective industries by hard work, tenacity and their disregard for other human beings’ dignity (though this last point is more muted than the first two). Both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are fiction novels that follow this pattern because an example of a person that achieves greatness without any help is a fictional concept.

Rand’s vision of an ideal society is one in which everyone is on their own and they are only limited by their own will to achieve. The problem with this vision is that it simply isn’t realistic. Firstly, Rand discounts the existence of people who have crippling disabilities such as those with severe autism or significant mental disorders. These people may have the greatest willpower, but their disabilities may make it impossible for them to achieve their dreams because of the advantages of the other people that are pursuing the same dream.

The second major flaw is that she doesn’t take into account the fact that people without limits will compete without rules. If employers didn’t have a minimum wage that they had to give, then they would give the lowest possible wage they could get away with while still retaining their employees.

But Rand is not concerned with these things, all she cares about is the idea that all people should work for themselves with disregard for other people, social norms, and even laws.

In The Fountainhead Rand’s “heroic” main character goes to the residence of a young woman and rapes her. Somehow Rand justifies this rape because, in the end, the woman accepted the man. This is easily the most straight-forward example of Rand’s greed-driven ideals. The idea that rape can be glorified as a man reaching his higher purpose is a dangerous one.

Rand’s writing is nothing special. Her main characters make you feel as miserable as J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caufield, but with none of the literary flare. He stories are long winded and over-detailed with many pages devoted to nothing but an attempt to make normal people look like a waste of breath while making entrepreneurs gods-among-men.

So why has her writing been so influential and popular?

Because her writing is a greedy, ambitious person’s excuse. Somewhere along the line some business-owner read Ayn Rand’s books and said, “Hey, I’ve always thought I was better than all my employees, now there is a book that establishes that I am right to think so!” Across the country employers make Rand’s books required readings for their employees. From the private sector to the public sector, Rand’s books are used like the divine rights of kings during the feudal era.

Expanding a business is no excuse for treating employees like cattle. The ends do not always justify the means in this world. Vicious ambition with disregard for human life around you is not holy. Yet Rand’s books attempt to establish all these things as true.

It is true that men generally act in their own self-interest, but it is also true that mankind would not be where it is today if cooperation was not part of the equation. Henry Ford revolutionized a industry, made his business lucrative and changed America by recognizing that he needed to treat his employees with respect. He realized that they all deserved a living that could buy them the products they were making. He knew that he would be nothing without the people below him. Every wise person is humble enough to recognize that they are nothing without help.

No matter how successful I become when I get older I won’t forget that the government invested in me, my parents invested in me and I got a lot of help along the way. Rand would have me discount all of that and claim that all that I am and hope to be is thanks to me. This is not accurate and would only give me a false sense of importance.

Greed may exist, but that doesn’t mean that it is good. Rand’s books have been used as an excuse by selfish people to do selfish things. As compelling as her argument may be, it is not enough for people to abandon cooperation in favor of greed. If her philosophy is to be accepted, it will be at the loss of progress in society.