As with the unborn in the womb, our culture is placing less value on the elderly and vulnerable. Belgian pharmacies have been selling euthanasia kits since 2005, and Switzerland has created a new industry known as “suicide tourism.” Increasingly, older people in countries where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal feel that they have a duty to die, to avoid being a burden to their children.
As of July 2016, California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana have all legalized assisted suicide, and over a dozen states have similar laws being considered by their legislatures.
Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, and the Netherlands have legalized euthanasia.
While most people think assisted suicide or euthanasia is the last resort for those in great pain, a survey in Oregon indicated that pain was not even one of the top three reasons for choosing assisted suicide. The most common reason was loss of autonomy, followed by a decreased ability to participate in enjoyable activities and loss of dignity.
As people reach the end of life, health care costs are often considerate. Health Care Rationing is the restricting of health care services on the basis of the age or perceived need of the individual, such as whether care is “futile” or not, in order to conserve medical resources. This can be localized rationing, such as in a hospital, or, as some in the medical community are considering, rationing resources for large groups of people. In his book Setting Limits aged-based rationing advocate Daniel Callahan proposed that the government refuse to pay for life-extending medical care for individuals beyond the age of 70 or 80! The moral response to this is to question how someone can determine the financial value of a human being’s life and whether or not they “deserve” care.
The idea of suffering, whether it is physical, emotional, or existential suffering, is seen as unacceptable. But this does not mean that we should hasten our deaths or encourage others to do so. Just as God is the creator of life, He is also the ender of life. Instead of directing people to death, we should be encouraging them to find God’s purpose for their lives and even for their suffering. Death can never be an answer to despair, but hope always should be.
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