Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Montana Court Ruling on Assisted Suicide: Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I’ve Found You or Coup d’ Culture?


One final reflection the court ruling finding a constitutional right to assisted suicide in Montana. This case--which will not be the final word due to an almost certain appeal--seems to be the latest to follow the "mystery of life" approach to jurisprudence, most infamously enunciated in 1992 by Supreme Court abortion case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, in which Justice Kennedy wrote:

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

Yes, of course we all have the right to decide metaphysical issues for ourselves and the state cannot force a creed or belief system upon us. But it destroys society as a coherent social organism if each individual's "concept" overrides almost all public policy considerations--such as those that are the bases of laws against assisted suicide. The consequence would seem to be a radical libertarianism with the only uniting value among and between us being "choice."

Note I wrote, "would seem," not "will be." I don't believe we will end up in such a libertarian Nirvana because establishing "choice" as the reigning value of society is not the real game that is afoot. What is really happening is the imposition by the liberal intellectual elites--whose interest the courts tend to serve, or at least reflect--of the mores and social values they favor upon the rest of us. This means that there is also going to be a flip side to this particular coin. Just as those personal behaviors favored by the liberal intelligentsia will be found to be constitutionally protected, personal behaviors disfavored by these same forces will be found to be controllable by the state.

Here is how this might work out with regard to issues relevant to SHS: Just because a court might impose a constitutional right to assisted suicide doesn't mean it would also overturn futile care theory. Nor will courts judicially impose conscience clauses protecting medical professionals from participating in certain procedures they find objectionable--even though the objected to procedures were validated under the mystery of life rule.

In fields beyond our scope here, we are likely to see the imposition of norms favored by liberal elites in total disregard of "choice" of dissenters. For example, I don't doubt that the time is coming when we will not be allowed to drive a car that gets 8 miles to the gallon, or burn a fire in the fireplace, or develop our resources if it is deemed to harm the "rights" of nature. You get the drift.

So what is really happening is a coup d' culture. It is a toppling of the current social order that is based in Judeo/Christian moral philosophy--in part through court rulings based on autonomy--with the eventual legal implementation of a dramatically different value system founded in utilitarianism, hedonism, and probably, radical environmentalism. Once that process is complete, judicial rulings will inform us that "choice" has definite limits.


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