Human Exceptionalism

More Ugly Truths About Assisted Suicide

A Swiss assisted suicide organization called Dignitas has helped a depressed woman kill herself in Germany. True, the woman presented a fake medical report, stating she was very ill. But the head of Dignitas said it didn’t matter since, “in any case every person in Europe has the right to choose to die, even if they are not terminally ill.” (As a result of the suicide, the Swiss doctor who prescribed the pills based on a faked medical report also killed himself.)

This is reminiscent of Dr. Philip Nitschke in Australia counseling a “terminally ill” woman named Nancy Crick about how to go about committing suicide. (Assisted suicide advocates who were present clapped when she swallowed the poison pills.) But when it was discovered upon autopsy that Crick was not actually dying, Nitschke said he’d known it all the time and shrugged it off: She wanted to die, he sniffed, so no big deal.

These stories tell us many things about assisted suicide, but I will only mention two here: First, assisted suicide isn’t a medical act. Dignitas is not operated by doctors. Indeed, under Swiss law, doctors are not permitted to assist suicides in their professional capacities.

Second,assisted suicide is ultimately, about death on demand. After all, if assisted suicide is about honoring “choice” and “ending suffering,” how can it be limited to the dying? As these two examples, and the broader cases among the Dutch and Belgians have clearly shown, it won’t be. Restricting hastened death to the dying is just a political tool to get people used killing as an acceptable response to illness or one of life’s other serious difficulties.

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