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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Suicide the “New Norm” for Dying?



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We are told repeatedly that assisted suicide will be a mere ”last resort” that needs to be available as an escape valve when nothing else can be done to alleviate suffering. Never mind that countries in which the populations have embraced assisted suicide/euthanasia, life-terminating practices have expanded to people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, the elderly “tired of life,” the mentally ill and depressed–and even widely acknowledged (if still technically illegal) infanticide. 

Yet, here in the USA, we are supposed to believe the death agenda is just a teensy-weensy, itty-bitty, miniscule adjustment in medical norms.

Baloney. Assisted suicide advocates are just following the well-worn path of cultural transforming campaigns; insist that there should be little fuss about a minor change about which we need to “have a conversation”–until the radicals control the castle walls. Then the hammer comes down, the minor change grows exponentially, and the conversation is stifled. 

But now, with Massachusetts perhaps poised to pass an assisted suicide legalization initiative, we are seeing a little more candor. In Slate, Lewis M. Cohen says that the MA vote will “change how the nation dies.”  From the article:

But the Massachusetts ballot question has the potential to turn death with dignity from a legislative experiment into the new national norm. The state is the home of America’s leading medical publication (the New England Journal of Medicine), hospital (Massachusetts General), and four medical schools (Harvard, Boston University, University of Massachusetts, and Tufts). Passage of the law would represent a crucial milestone for the death with dignity movement, especially since 42 percent of the state is Catholic and the church hierarchy vehemently opposes assisted dying. Vermont and New Jersey are already entertaining similar legislature, and if the act passes in Massachusetts, other states that have previously had unsuccessful campaigns will certainly be emboldened to revisit this subject.

Well, MA is one of the country’s most liberal state–and that often counts more than stated religious affiliation. But that point aside, I think that if MA does pass assisted suicide, other states in New England could follow.

And that would be lethal to the Hippocratic value of treating all patients as moral equals. Consider the full-throated advocacy these days for cutting medical costs. What could be cheaper than transforming intentional drug overdoses into a ”medical treatment?” About $1000 is about all it would cost to get a patient dead, and that probably includes doctor’s visits. But it could cost more than $100,000 to provide the kind of care required so that patients didn’t want assisted suicide.

Don’t think that issue hasn’t crossed the technocrats’ minds. Vermont, for example, has created a single payer state health care system. But they don’t know how to pay for it.  Some are now suggesting legalizing assisted suicide and joining it with health care rationing. Not only that, but the latter could help drive the former.

Normalizing assisted suicide could also put pressure on the dying and seriously ill or disabled to move on. If you think this sounds like a potential “duty to die,” you are not crazy. That too is bubbling on the bioethics burner.



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