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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

DAILY JOURNAL on Assisted Suicide “Counseling”



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I was interviewed for almost an hour for this story, which I think is pretty straight and down the middle, published today in the Daily Journal, California's leading legal newspaper (no link available). The story concerns the suicide "counseling" in which Compassion and Choices claims it will engage because CA refuses to legalize assisted suicide. Here are a few excerpts:
After two years of unsuccessful lobbying for a euthanasia law in California, a group called Compassion & Choices has decided to focus on advising terminally ill patients how to kill themselves...Volunteers with health care backgrounds will screen callers to a toll-free telephone number for mental competency before spelling out options for a peaceful death that include how to end their lives quickly. Compassion & Choice's legal counsel say that, although California law is murky about aid in dying, they believe their consultation service is legal.

Lawyers who oppose euthanasia say Compassion & Choice's volunteers are treading legally dangerous waters. "If I go out and drink a bottle of rat poison and I do that to try to end my life, that is suicide. Facilitating that is a criminal problem," said James Sweeney, a partner in Sweeney & Greene of Elk Grove, who represents California Catholic Conference. Wesley J. Smith, a San Francisco lawyer and author of "Secondhand Smoke," a blog that discusses human cloning, assisted-suicide and other bio-ethical issues, agreed the consultation service might cross criminal and civil legal boundaries. "I think they are going to deal with some very troubled people and a family is going to be very seriously upset that their loved one was counseled into suicide," Smith said. "And I hope that family member sues the crap out of these people."
And, of course, the assisted suicide advocates continue their post modernistic word engineering campaign of pretending that suicide by a terminally ill person isn't really suicide:
While Tucker acknowledges the statute, she said it is "quite well accepted" in mental health circles that the "choice of acting to provide the time of death" is not suicide.

Society's definition of suicide has changed over the years, said Aaron Jacobs, of Heller Ehrman in Menlo Park. He said a court today might rule that assisting the terminally ill to hasten their deaths is not assisted suicide...California criminal law defines murder and manslaughter, but it does not define suicide, Jacobs said. "The last amendment took Section 401 out of the homicide section," he said. "The 1905 definition of suicide and the 2007 definition of suicide probably are quite different. Some would say suicide is suicide and everybody knows what that is. But organizations are coming to realize it's not that simple."...Jacobs distinguished suicide from euthanasia as an "irrational decision." "They are not killing themselves," he said. "The disease is killing them and they want to choose."
Such definitions are not (yet) well accepted in the mental health professions. But never mind. The narrative and agenda are all that counts. In such a milieu, accurate definitions and descriptive words must be subsumed.
Beum said that although the volunteers are not psychiatrists, they are able to assess a patient's mental competency because they are experienced in palliative care and are intimately familiar with the progression of diseases. "We know if a person has lung cancer what the usual trajectory of the illness is," Beum said. "We get a picture of where they are. We have a good sense of physically, emotionally and spiritually where they are. If ever we have concerns about their mental capacity, we can help them to see their own psychiatrist or therapist, if they have one, or to get them a mental health exam."
Think about this! These "counselors" will not be licensed mental health professionals giving mental health advice. They will not be doctors but will be giving medical advise as to prognoses. What an outrage. And yet some in the media have editorialized in favor of such counseling. And by the way, I have a friend who was told his lung cancer would kill him within three months--seven years ago!
If the callers decide to hasten their deaths, volunteers provide them with various options and will be present with the terminally ill as they kill themselves, but will not provide the means nor administer the means of death, according the group's news release...Smith said the group can't contend the law is murky and at the same time say what they are doing is legal. "If they are saying they are not sure if the law is clear, then at some point they think they may be committing a crime," he said.
I also pointed out that these counselors always cover their tracks and clean up the scene of the death. Doing so, it seems to me, is an implicit acknowledgment that a crime has been committed.


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