Human Exceptionalism

Putting Loved Ones Out of Our Misery

Emotional whipsawing is the lifeblood of euthanasia advocacy (pardon the pun). The movement thrives on often truly heart-wrenching stories to convince society to grant a general license allowing doctors or family members to help kill the disabled, despairing and dying.

The Daily Mail carried such a report recently of a mother named Heather Pratten who smothered her son as he was committing suicide because he was in anguish at having Huntington’s disease. From the story:

Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, she explained how on his 42nd birthday, Nigel had tried to take his life with a massive heroin overdose. Lying next to him and seeing him struggling to breathe as the drug took hold, she took a pillow and suffocated him to relieve his suffering.

She told hosts Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield: ‘I thought “this has to end”. I couldn’t take it any longer. I put a pillow over his face. When I took it away, he was gone.’ Although she was arrested and charged, an autopsy concluded her actions would not have changed Nigel’s fate.

Nigel had always been very depressed, leaving home, drinking to excess, etc.. From what we can tell in the story, he was not receiving psychiatric help.

Nor was he was not at the end stage of the disease when he took the overdose. Now Heather is campaigning to legalize assisted suicide. (Notice the Mail used a photo of Nigel as a child to hype the emotionalism. He was actually 42 when he died.)

We saw the same kind of thing in Canada some time ago when Robert Latimer was hailed as a hero by many Canadians after he murdered his 12 year-old daughter Traci because she had cerebral palsy.

We can have great empathy for the anguish of Pratten–without condoning killing or opening the door to the abandonment of assisted suicide.

Besides, there is another side to this issue that usually receives media short shrift. Recall the assisted sucide of Myrna Lebov, in which her self-described “compassionate” husband became an instant assisted suicide movment hero after claiming to have helped his wife die because she had progressive MS.

But it turned out that he had actually pushed her into the death and had been planning to write a book about his deed all along. From my piece about the case in the Weekly Standard:

On March 28, 1995, Delury wrote in his diary that he planned to tell his wife: I have work to do, people to see, places to travel. But no one asks about my needs. I have fallen prey to the tyranny of a victim. You are sucking my life out of my [sic] like a vampire and nobody cares. In fact, it would appear that I am about to be cast in the role of villain because I no longer believe in you.

Delury later admitted on the NBC program Dateline that he had shown his wife that very passage. Moreover, not only did he push her into “death with dignity,” but smothered her with a plastic bag to make sure she died.

For many the Pratten and Latimer cases resonate far more strongly than Lebov’s killing.

Ah well.  We live in pro-suicide times. We should take a long, hard look in a societal mirror about that. 

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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