Human Exceptionalism

Assisted Suicides: “The Three Cs”

Assisted suicide advocates like to use that sound bite of all sound bites: “Choice.” But there are three other “C-words” I like to focus on too: Context, consequences, and compassion–in the true root meaning of that wonderful word, which means to “suffer with.”

This is a context moment: The USA is doing a terrible job, it seems, in regulating nursing homes and preventing our senior citizens from abuse. From the New York Times story:

Federal health officials impose only minimal penalties on nursing homes repeatedly cited for mistreatment of patients, Congressional investigators say in a new report. As a result, they said, some nursing homes cycle in and out of compliance with federal standards and pose a continued threat to the health and safety of patients. “Some of these homes repeatedly harmed residents over a six-year period and yet remain in the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” said the report, to be issued next week by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress.


The Department of Health and Human Services “fails to hold homes with a long history of harming residents accountable for the poor care provided,” the investigators said.

If government cant protect seniors from abuse, how will it protect against abuse in assisted suicide? Indeed, how will doctors even know abuse is happening when many, if Oregon is any indication, will barely know the patient for whom they are writing a poison prescription? (Statistics indicate that some doctors knew their assisted suicide patients for two weeks or less before prescribing.)

The answer is: It won’t. Indeed, based on Oregon’s law and legislation in California, actual protections aren’t the point. Seeming to protect: That’s the political ticket.

Context. We definitely need to keep it in mind when debating assisted suicide.

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