Human Exceptionalism

Compassion and Choices Uses Murder/Suicide For Political Advantage

I was going to post about this case–in which a husband with cancer murdered his wife with Alzheimer’s disease, and then killed himself–because the political opportunists at the assisted suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices decided to exploit the case to push their agenda.  But Stephen Drake of Not Dead Yet, the disability rights group,  beat me to it over at the Not Dead Yet website.   He uses language I avoid, but he’s definitely got C and C’s number as to why its claim that legalizing Oregon-style assisted suicide could have avoided the shootings is disengenuous.  From his post:

Two reasons:

I’ve read all the press coverage concerning the deaths of the Vanacores.  Not one single article claims that Joan Vanacore was “dying” of Alzheimer’s disease.  Alzheimer’s can only be considered “terminal” in the final stages – a stage at which the person isn’t legally competent to request help in comitting suicide.  While she apparently wasn’t in the most advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, Joan Vanacore had apparently reached a point where she wouldn’t have been considered legally competent to make a life-and-death decision, according to her son:

John Vanacore, of North Haven said he doesn’t believe his parents conspired to end their lives, as his mother “wasn’t cognizant enough” to make such a decision, but that his father was thinking about others in the family. “My father was very private, but I feel he felt he was dying and didn’t want to have her be a burden on anyone,” he said.

So that’s the second reason: Competence. C&C pays lip service to the principle of limiting legalization of assisted suicide only to those people who are diagnosed as “terminal” (expected to live no longer than 6 months) and who are mentally competent to make the request.  Joan Vanacore wasn’t “dying” and she wasn’t regarded as “competent.”

Is C&C suggesting that legalization would somehow have made it possible for John Vanacore to discuss his wish to end his wife’s life with a doctor?

Advocacy for limiting assisted suicide to those who are competent with six months or less to live is a political expedient, which Drake notes below.  Indeed, once assisting the suicides of people with terminal illnesses became widely accepted, the movement would be on to other targets–as has happened in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland:

There are only two ways I can think of right now to interpret this cynical exploitation of a tragic situation:

1. C&C is testing the limits of the public’s gullibility.  They might be emboldened right now, seeing how the Final Exit Network – with its “open door” policy of suicide assistance to nonterminal old, ill and disabled people have gotten a sympathetic free ride in the press – and in many cases misreport the group as “aiding” people with “terminal illnesses.”  They might also have been pleasantly surprised at how the combined marketing efforts of HBO and CNN have repackaged Jack Kevorkian – from a lawless creepy ghoul to an eccentric champion for the terminally ill.  So maybe they’re keeping they’re fingers crossed that maybe the public really is too stupid to notice that the person who was killed wasn’t dying and didn’t ask to die.

2. It’s also possible that C&C is testing the waters with this release.  Anyone familiar with the passions of assisted suicide/euthanasia activists knows that the “terminally ill” limitation being promoted at present is just the first step in an incrementalist strategy.  Most of the supporters of assisted suicide and euthanasia want much broader “eligibility” – similar to the expansive eligibility in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Well, C and C has already shown its true colors by resisting the kind of “protections” in Montana that it insisted on in Oregon and Washington.  Alas, as Drake knows, the media don’t care.  Heck, they still describe Kevorkian’s assisted suicides as being terminally ill when most were depressed and disabled.

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