So tonight I pretty much had the best night I've had while in Oxford - I went to the Oxford Union. The Oxford Union is basically the debate club, however, it's huge. Each week they host a formal debate in which famous speakers are invited to argue the proposition and the opposition. Before each debate there are drinks in the quad and after there are President's Drinks. This week's topic was 'This House should legalise assisted suicide.' We, as in an audience of about two hundred, heard arguments from UN doctors, national Parliamentary figures, and family members associated with assisted suicide cases. As each presents their argument many students stand up and challenge the facts and points made. Basically it's what Americans think of when they think of Oxford - students coming up with eloquent, well-defended arguments on the spot about pertinent issues while surrounded by very well-known people/scholars. The whole thing is very much so like The House of Commons (which you can catch on late night C-SPAN) - people shouting and such; even the layout of the room is the same. Typically you have to be a member to come to these events (Oxford students are eligible but must pay quite a bit), however, one of my college moms is an officer for the Union and she was able to get me a guest pass - to both the debate and President's Drinks (which few people get invited to this open bar event). It was a great night, even though I got soaked while heading back home in a, recently dry-cleaned, suit. Just a bit more about the Union, they also host numerous famous speakers - Martin Sheen was just here about a week and a half ago.
There's a video about the Oxford Union here. The main debating chamber is where I was but it gives you an idea about the Union as a whole. Although I have to argue about their claim to having the cheapest bar in Oxford - I've been there, Regent's bar is cheaper.
My position on the topic (since I've been asked) -
Based on the debate alone I'm in full support of assisted suicide. The opposition did not clearly present their facts, only one member managed to successfully do this. They also used Oregon as an example yet cited much incorrect information. Somehow Texas and the death penalty got thrown in there as well. Furthermore, one member said that assisted suicide was like divorce and abortion - it's controversial at first, then it gets legalized and everyone is ok with it (meaning at some point we'll just kill people for the hell of it). The proposition had both and emotional and factual argument (and didn't cite incorrect facts from the US).
Personally I believe that it's an autonomous right. If you want to kill yourself you have the right to do so as a member of a Western, democratic government. When you are unable to do so because you are incapacitated then it is your right to seek assistance to carry out your wishes. In denying your right to assisted suicide you're more or less saying that some one doesn't deserve their rights or that they are somehow "less-deserving" than a healthy person. However, strict rules and safeguards must be in place.