Human Exceptionalism

Disabled Woman Wants Suicide/Organ Donation

I have been warning against coupling assisted suicide with organ harvesting since 1993, when I wrote my first anti-assisted suicide column in Newsweek. From, “The Whispers of Strangers:”

Life is action and reaction, the proverbial pebble thrown into the pond. We don’t get to the Brave New World in one giant leap. Rather, the descent to depravity is reached by small steps. First, suicide is promoted as a virtue. Vulnerable people like Frances become early casualties. Then follows mercy killing of the terminally ill. From there, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to killing people who don’t have a good “quality” of life, perhaps with the prospect of organ harvesting thrown in as a plum to society.

And now, a Michigan woman wants just that. From the Fox Detroit story:

16 years ago this week, Sherri Muzher was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that has robbed her of a life she always hoped to have, and now in its final stages making her a hostage of her own body. However, this 43-year-old still wants to give something back.”We’re all here on earth to make a difference,” she said.

Homebound and now living in Flat Rock, the law school graduate and avid writer can no longer use her skills she once thrived on, but she believes she can still help others. That’s why she wants to end her life and donate her organs. “It would be a nice legacy to give life,” Muzher said.

Notice the article’s headline was written, “terminally ill woman” wants suicide and organ donation. That designation seeks to make the request more palatable. The more accurate headline would have been, “Disabled Michigan Woman Has Controversial Wish,” 

My good friend Mark Pickup experienced a similar trajectory–a catastrophic MS attack and a desire for suicide. But he emerged from the darkness and is now a disability rights/pro life activist and Catholic apologist. None of that would probably be true had assisted suicide been available to him back in his days of despair.

Think it can’t happen here? There have already been cases of suicides coupled with a request for organ donation. As I have written, the organ transplant community should publicly state that committing suicide precludes one from becoming an organ donor.

That isn’t public policy here, of course. But Belgium explicitly permits legal euthanasia coupled with organ harvesting, usually of people with neuromuscular diseases such as that of Ms. Muzher.

I can’t think of anything more dangerous to a moral society than giving disabled people the belief that their deaths are better for the world than their lives. Well, perhaps one thing: Convincing wider society to accept the premise.

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