The Corner


Pushing Euthanasia for the Depressed

When it comes to euthanasia, I am rarely wrong.

For years, I have argued that the terminal illness limitation is a ruse to get us used to killing as an acceptable answer to suffering. Once society swallowed the poisonous meme, sooner or later the killing license would be expanded to others who suffer more profoundly and  longer than the dying. If the dying can be lethally jabbed or prescribed, why not the severely depressed or the chronically ill?

I never heard a cogent denial, just claims of the SLIPPERY SLOPE fallacy!

No, facts on the ground. Belgium and Netherlands both permit euthanasia for the mentally ill–and couple it with organ harvesting.

“But it hasn’t happened in Oregon!” I am told.

Not yet, I respond. Our society hasn’t fully imbibed the hemlock. But that’s where advocates want to take us.

Now, in the Hastings Center Report–the most prestigious bioethics journal in the world–the noted bioethicist Bonnie Steinbock pushes the envelope to include patients with “severe, treatment-resistant depression.” From her article:

Some of the arguments for an absolute exclusion of patients with severe, treatment-resistant depression from receiving PAD [physician-assisted death] are dubious. The rationale for a terminal illness requirement, which would exclude those suffering only from mental illness, appears arbitrary and inconsistent with the two arguments underlyng PAD, namely autonomy and suffering.

Precisely what I have been saying all these years, to the catcalls of bioethicists! Back to Steinbock:

Indeed, the terminal illness requirement forces those who have an incurable illness but are not terminally ill to suffer longer than those who are terminally ill.

Hmmm. Where have I heard those words before? More.

In addition, the suffering that patients with major depressive disorder endure is at least as severe as that experienced by patients with a terminal illness.

Do you see how making eliminating suffering the highest goal quickly metastasizes into eliminating the sufferer?

Steinbock doesn’t propose organ harvesting of those depressed people doctors would kill, but that would surely follow as a matter of respecting “choice.” At that point, we would cease being a moral society because we would be telling the mentally ill that their deaths have greater value than their lives.

Assisted suicide limitations about terminal illness aren’t meant to last. And even if they were, logically they can’t last.

So. no more pretense that it would be just a teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy, change in the morality of society–when, in fact, it would be a radical life-disaffirming earthquake shattering the sanctity/equality of human life as the foundation of our culture and our laws.



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

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