In the U.S., a handful of states currently allow for assisted suicide, and numerous states have seen legislative pushes to legalize it in the past year.
The Catholic Church opposes all forms of suicide as violating the inherent dignity of human life. Catholic teaching supports palliative care and other options to alleviate suffering without killing a human person.
Critics of assisted suicide laws say they send the message to society that suicide is an acceptable way to handle suffering, and that they are ripe for abuse, from financially motivated killings and lack of consent to lethal pills changing hands.
Disability rights groups have argued that legalizing assisted suicide discriminates against the disabled and elderly, pressuring them to end their lives. They also note that the majority of patients who request assisted suicide withdraw that request when treated for depression, a statistic recognized by the Supreme Court.
To Nagel, assisted suicide can all too quickly come to be viewed as an easy way out, preferable over caring for the sick and elderly.
"All these old people are darned expensive to look after. And they're cranky. And they're messy. And you can't help thinking, 'This would be a really good solution'."