Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Ideologues Bootstrap Assisted Suicide to LGBT


The Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices has no shame. Now, they have bootstrapped assisted suicide onto the recent success of LGBT issues. From one of its ubiquitous emails:

1994 was a different time in America. A vicious plague was erasing entire communities across America and hope was scarce. The dark specter of HIV/AIDS loomed large as treatment options were unreliable, and many research programs were starved for funding.

Too many in the LGBT community in the later stages of this disease–seeing their friends and loved ones torn apart by it–turned to desperate acts of violence to escape the inevitable, and often excruciating pain that accompanies the terminal stages of AIDS. But on a particularly rainy day in November, Oregon voters went to the polls to pass the first Death with Dignity law in our nation’s history. Finally, terminally ill Oregonians, regardless of their sexual orientation, could have a dignified and compassionate end to their lives without resorting to desperate measures to stave off horrific pain.

LGBT victories were few and far between back in those days. But the voters in Oregon that night passed a landmark law in response to a real crisis and set in motion a legislative movement for choice that continues in America today.

What crap! I was involved in fighting Measure 16, the voter initiative that legalized assisted suicide in Oregon. I can tell you, it certainly wasn’t presented as an LGBT issue. Indeed, I don’t recall gay rights being brought up (not that I saw every advocacy ad or speech). If anything, the pro-16ers focused primarily on an anti-Catholic message.

The ones most concerned for the welfare of AIDS patients were opponents, who worried that as a (then) stigmatized group, some might be more likely to decide on suicide. And indeed, while very few people with AIDS have committed assisted suicide in Oregon, a 2007 article written by pro-assisted suicide advocates in the Journal of Medical Ethics found that AIDS patients were at “heightened risk” from legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Beyond that, assisted suicide took a terrible toll on the AIDS community in San Francisco at that time. I know. I was there.

I moved to SF in 1992. The city was in the midst of a calamity. You’d see young men on the streets–looking like they were 80–only able to walk because they were supported by friends. AIDS patients suffered alone in stinking single room occupancy hotels. I used to deliver dinners to them for Project Open Hand. If there is a hell, it looks–and smells–like some of the hotels I entered to bring a lonely, terribly ill man a meal.

An underground assisted suicide movement began within the AIDS community, with the message being (as I recall), “You can’t tell us how to love and you can’t tell us how to die.” There was much social support for suicide of AIDS patients, sometimes long before the final stages of the illness. Indeed, friends of the suicidal person would gather around the bed for the death.

Assisted suicide-sympathetic Doctors provided drugs fully knowing to what purpose they would be used. It was very open. Indeed, I debated some of these doctors at the time in public forums.

And then, the new drugs came out and people on the very verge of falling into the grave came back to vitality. But not all who would have, because many who would have survived were dead thanks to social and medical support for taking an assisted suicide overdose.

I have never forgiven the assisted suicide movement for that. And now C & C tries to turn assisted suicide into an LGBT rights issue? Lower than a snake’s belly! 


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