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In Which a Bunch of Libertarian Types Go Full Wookie…

… and fit Ambulance Driver for a swastika and a pair of jackboots while he sleeps.

Seems like my high school guidance counselor was right when she said that "fascist tool of the totalitarian state" was the perfect career choice for me. And all this time, I figured I was just a simple paramedic.

In response to Tamara's link to my Lines In The Sand post, a couple of people went into a bug-eyed, slobbering, incoherent rage took umbrage at my assertion that you don't have the right to refuse care if you have expressed, by word or deed, a desire to kill yourself.

Actually, that's pretty much the law in my state and a bunch of others, but let's take a moment to delve into how, by the convoluted reasoning of some, my following that law is the moral equivalent of herding Jews on the train to Auschwitz.

And yes, people actually said that.

Like TJIC, for example:

How does this differ from "OK, Jew, I understand that you want to leave this prison camp, and that would be OK by me, EXCEPT for the fact that I'd get written up and get three demerits if I let you, therefore I won't let you – your actions have consequences for other people, and you have to realize this!"

Wow. Just… wow.

I guess I shouldn't have taken my "I am TJIC" badge down off my blog, huh? While I appreciate that Travis might have a sore spot or three about having his rights trampled over words he said, that statement is a perfect example of why many don't take libertarianism seriously.

I mean, you get a bunch of individualists who are passionate about personal freedom and smaller government, people who are legitimately concerned about the encroachment of government on our personal freedoms, whose general approach to life is "You leave me along and I'll leave you alone," and invariably there is one in the bunch who says something so far out in friggin' left field that the rest of them want to sidle away, eyeing him nervously all the while.

And in so doing, alienate about 75% of the fence-sitters who might be sympathetic to their cause.

But hey, more power to you, Travis. You stay militant, brother!

If you really equate me transporting someone whose words or deeds demonstrate that they may not – at least in the eyes of the law – be in full possession of their mental faculties, with a Nazi trooper herding Jews onto a train to a concentration camp, then we really have nothing else to discuss.

Have a big libertarian "Go fuck yourself!" and have a nice day. 

A fellow with the handle of ILTim also opines:

"Who the fuck are you to decide that a person should be dragged against their will to gitmo/ fluffy bunny land/ wherever you please? That type of personal violence could and should be resisted in every way available and necessary including lethal force."
 

Well, here's the thing, Tim. If you were that willing to use lethal force, you damned sure should have used it on yourself before the cops and EMT's got called to the scene. If you're that slow, or you're running your mouth about it, you're going to the hospital. And if you try to resist by lethal force, I'm gonna go hide behind the engine block of my ambulance while the cops ventilate you thoroughly with .40 caliber holes.

And after my shift is over, we'll go hit the local jackbooted thug bar, I'll buy them all a beer for saving my life, and we'll do a few Nazi salutes and read selected passages of Mein Kampf together.

First of all, I don't get to decide. I just get to transport them to the place where someone with more training than me in psychiatric care decides. I didn't make that law, I'm just subject to it. I suppose I could just shrug my shoulders and say, "Your life, your choice," and walk away, but when I get sued – and I will get sued – the only way I'll get away with it is if I have a jury full of people like you and TJIC.

Except, guys like you would never make it onto that jury. You'd be outside the courthouse wearing a sandwich board, screaming "SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED!" for the television cameras, while everybody watching mentally relegates you to the same niche as the disheveled guy on the next street corner, wearing the sandwich board that says, "REPENT, THE END IS NIGH."

If that makes me a moral coward in your eyes, then so be it. Your opinion of me doesn't cost me much sleep. Grab yourself a picket sign and hang out in Moral Absoluteville with TJIC, while the rest of society does its best to ignore you. Me, I'll still be here, trying to convince people of the rightness of libertarian ideals, and likely making more headway because I'm not spouting off crazy shit like comparing EMT's to Nazi death camp guards.

The whole point of that post is that words have consequences. Travis discovered that very thing, and apparently hasn't learned anything from it. In a way, I find that admirable…

.. from afar.

I say "from afar," because while it's nice to hold people up as heroes, heads bloody but unbowed and all that, up close and in person they often turn out to be unreasonable assholes. In any case, I imagine Travis will lose as little sleep over my opinion of him as I will over his opinion of me. I just wish he realized that people with his attitude make far better symbols than effective advocates.
 

On the brighter side, there were some reasonable voices in the crowd. Roberta X:
 

 "Killing yourself: a legitimate exercise of the right of self-ownership.

Threatening to kill yourself: Extortion.  It is exactly the same as threatening to kill a hostage.

The threatener is initiating force-by-proxy on those with whom he shares his threats.

Dammit, this isn't rocket science."

You'd think so, wouldn't you, Robbi? I wonder if it would matter if I told them I support assisted suicide laws. You do have a right to self-determination. Just don't get me or my livelihood entangled in it by threatening first. And if calm and reasonable people took that stance and voted on it, more than three states would have assisted suicide laws. Instead, at least 35 states still explicitly criminalize it, due in part because every time Jack Kevorkian got on television and talked about it, he wounded up sounding like, well… TJIC.

Yrro Simyarin opines:

I in no way blame you for enforcing the law as written. It isn't your duty to throw your career away and the good you do otherwise as a political protest.

But man, that law is messed up. I think the real takeaway here is "never call 911 if someone you love says they're going to kill him/herself, because you're just about destroying their life." Talk to them, try to get them help, but make damn sure it is all voluntary and not involving the authorities.

 

I agree 100%. The law is indeed messed up, but it isn't my duty to throw my career and livelihood away to protest it. And I like my career. I do a lot of good. I'm not going to walk away from it, as TJIC suggested: "If you're unwilling to allow other people to be free because it would give you demerits at work, maybe you're in the wrong line of work."

It isn't a "line of work" for me. It's who I am. Don't want me interfering in your decision to off yourself? Fine. Don't. Get. Me. Involved.

It's that simple. My number is 911. Don't call it, or don't make spiteful threats that spur other people to call it. Just get on with your business, preferably alone and in private.

But I will offer slight disagreement to one part of your comment: "I think the real takeaway here is "never call 911 if someone you love says they're going to kill him/herself, because you're just about destroying their life."

Suicidal ideation is often a spur-of-the-moment impulse. Unfortunately, people often act on that impulse, and many of them are not in full possession of their faculties when they do it. That's why the laws are as they are. I concede the point that some people, in full possession of their wits, make a cold and rational decision to end their life.

For such people, I think that's a legitimate act of self-determination, one I wouldn't interfere with.

The sticky part is differentiating the (temporarily) mentally ill who make the decision on impulse, from those who make it after rational deliberation. Most laypeople can't tell the two apart, and make no mistake, the 911 operator and the person on the other end of the Suicide Hotline is a layperson. They have very little medical training, if any. What they have is a script, and a set of protocols.

So when you call the Suicide Hotline, they will often turn right around and call 911, thus getting the cops and EMT's involved. Now, I have serious problems with that approach, but you can blame our litigious society for that one. People are afraid of liability. You should be able to call a mental health hotline without fear of the cops banging on your door. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and the cops and EMT's are not in a position to change it.

But you shouldn't hesitate to seek help for someone who is legitimately despondent and suicidal, even to the extent of calling 911. You could very well be saving their life, not ruining it. As I stated before, often these states are temporary. With medication and counseling they often can and do get better.

Sometimes the medication and counseling does no good, especially if it only consists of doping them to the eyeballs with antipsychotics and warehousing them for a week or two.

But here's where I reject TJIC's and ILTim's indignation out of hand. If someone rationally and deliberately decides to kill himself, as opposed to someone threatening it out of spite, there is nothing that I, or the cops, or an army of psychiatrists can do to stop them. Most often, they'll just do it, and we find their bodies later.

If, on the off chance that we intervene in time, they'll go to a psych ward for 48-72 hours, where they will soon be released, because they rationally and deliberately play the game, do whatever it takes to get set loose, and then go about carrying out their plan.

And it's damned easy to do, because they're not insane. Contrary to popular belief, sane people do not get locked in psych wards for appreciable periods of time. Oh, there are horror stories here and there where that has happened, but that is far from the norm. In fact, it's just the opposite; the system is so beleaguered that a great many mentally ill who should be in inpatient facilities are out walking the streets, getting zero care.

Nor is me transporting you to the ED for a psych evaluation any guarantee that you will be committed involuntarily. That's a fact lost in the comments from the post in question. The person who puts you in the psych ward has to have MD behind their name. The cop or the guy with EMT-P doesn't get to say whether you're sane or insane, he just has to get the patient to the MD to make that determination. And fairly often, the patient convinces the ED physician that the statement was made in jest, or in anger, or wasn't said at all and the 911 caller was just lying to be spiteful, and the patient gets to go home. Convincing the doctor that you're no danger to yourself is fairly easy… if you're no danger to yourself. It's something any calm, rational person can do.

And once you're home, you can go on about your life, with nothing other than an ED visit in the hospital records. Or, if you prefer, you can get on with calmly, rationally mixing your hemlock smoothie or eating your 235 grains of Trepanazine.

And if that was your ultimate goal, then having a psych hold in your medical records is pretty inconsequential, wouldn't you agree?

Why would you care? You're dead, after all.

 

 

 

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