This article about objections to assisted suicide originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Carpe Diem.
In early June of this year, the culture of death will celebrate another milestone in their efforts to destroy the inherent dignity of life, as legalized physician assisted suicide and euthanasia laws went into effect in California and Canada.
My heart breaks to see politicians and judges approving and creating laws that undermine the sixth commandment: Do Not Murder. With each state and country that legalizes the imposition of death on the vulnerable, it becomes harder to keep it illegal and to stop the momentum of Right-to-Die advocates.
California will join Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana, each of which have made it legal for a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates so an individual can intentionally end his or her life. Similar laws are currently being considered in 19 additional states’ legislatures.
Canada will join Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, and the Netherlands in allowing doctors to end the lives of their patients via euthanasia.
This momentum calls us to intercede now before it is too late. Here are five practical reasons why people must work to prevent Aid-in-Dying proponents from gaining further legislative ground.
1. Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia laws are sold on the premise that everyone should have the right-to-die when they choose. However, where aid-in-dying is offered, medical care and support services often are denied to patients, and they instead are encouraged to pursue assisted suicide. Barbara Wagner’s case is a well-documented example of this, and there is nothing written into these laws to prevent this subtle form of coercion. In addition to the concern of being denied healthcare, some patients may also fear becoming a burden to others, which may create pressure for a vulnerable person to request lethal drugs. The right-to-die ideal becomes a duty-to-die requirement.
2. These laws are not written to prevent abuse, especially towards the elderly, disabled, and terminally ill. There is no administrative oversight of the requests to die or over the drugs once the prescription is filled. If the patient changes his or her mind and decides he or she wants to live, nothing prevents a care-giver, family member, or anyone who may profit from the death from mixing the contents of the pills with applesauce and feeding it to the unsuspecting patient — or any person, for that matter.
3. Polling data shows that people support assisted suicide because they believe it is necessary for those who suffer from extreme pain. However, physical pain is better alleviated not by killing the patient but by using medications to manage pain. Medical advances in pain control can help patients get relief from pain without resorting to killing themselves. Additionally, pain is not the most common reason for people to choose assisted suicide. According to data collected by the State of Oregon, “quality of life is the driving force behind patients seeking Physician Assisted Suicide. Loss of autonomy, or not being able to care for oneself and make one’s own decisions, is reported in 100% of cases of PAS in Oregon. Closely following are the loss of one’s dignity and the loss of being able to participate in enjoyable activities.”
4. Many healthcare providers do not support assisted suicide and euthanasia laws but are being told they must fulfill a patient’s request to die or refer the patient to a doctor willing to help the patient. Doctors are being denied their right to refuse to help people kill themselves without fear of punishment or loss of job.
5. Affirming the right to kill yourself implies approval and acceptance of suicide as a solution to life’s challenges. It undermines efforts to prevent suicide, especially amongst young, impressionable people. While current US laws only apply to adults over the age of 18, proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide believe people of all ages should have the right to die. There is no age limit in the Netherlands, and Canada has already acknowledged the “need” to lower the age once the law is established to give equal access to younger patients. Sadly, suicide is already the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, surpassed only by homicide and accidents, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, suicide in general is on the rise for all ages across the board. Suicide rates have increased 24% from 1999 to 2014, increasing roughly 1% a year from 1999 through 2006, then 2% a year from 2006 through 2014. If suicide rates have increased so much since 1999—the year after assisted suicide became legal in Oregon—imagine the rise in the trend nationwide if assisted suicide legislation is passed.
We all will someday face the end of our earthly life. Many more of us will see old age and, likely, physical decline, just as many of us have seen with parents and family members. This can be a scary thought for many — no one likes thinking of suffering and dying, even for those of us who have faith in eternal life. But that fear cannot allow us to perceive assisted suicide and euthanasia as merciful or dignified. I encourage you to make a stand for natural death, that we as God’s people would honor and protect the lives of the elderly and vulnerable and speak out against efforts to normalize killing them using these five reasons.
by AFL President Deacon Georgette Forney