Human Exceptionalism

On the Natural Death of Brooke Hopkins

I have long known of the tragedy that struck vocal assisted suicide advocate Margaret Pabst Battin and her husband Brooke Hopkins. Hopkins was catastrophically injured in an accident and has spent years under Battin’s very good care. There were several prominent articles written about the situation over the years, most recently, a cover story in the New York Times Magazine.

I never commented publicly. Absent a compelling reason, I try not to personalize these things when people are going through very tough times.

Now Hopkins died after ordering that his respirator be turned off, that is, he refused unwanted medical treatment. From the New York Times story:

The hospice physician gave Brooke a sedative, and Brooke sat in his wheelchair for a while with his stepchildren, his friends, a few of his favorite caregivers and his wife. He said he was getting sleepy, and he was put into bed. Peggy got in beside him. A gospel song he had chosen for the occasion, Marion Williams’s “My Soul Looks Back,” played on the stereo…

Later, Peggy told the Tribune reporter, Peggy Fletcher Stack, that “it was peaceful and painless, just as he wanted it” — close to the kind of ending he described to me earlier as a “generous death.”

Battin and Hopkins made his circumstance a very public matter, so with the denouement, I think it is acceptable for me to comment.

Note, that–contrary to the propaganda of some assisted suicide advocates–no one forced Hopkins to receive invasive medical treatment he no longer wanted. As a result, he died naturally, from his underlying condition, and was given proper medical care to ease the passing by hospice.

There is a bright line ethical (and usually) legal separation between dying naturally after refusing treatment and being killed by an intentional overdose of drugs. There is the factual distinction, of course. But as policy, the differences are profound, providing a dramatically contrasting impact on greater society and our perceived value of the lives of people going through terminal and disabling illnesses and injuries. 

My sympathies to Battin and good on her for taking such good and loving care of her beloved.

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

Most Popular

Sports

Hurray for the NBA

Last month, just before the Final Four, I did a Q&A on college basketball with our Theodore Kupfer. Teddy K. is back, by popular demand, joined by two other experts: Vivek Dave, an old friend of mine from Michigan, who has long lived in Chicago, and David French, National Review’s Kentucky Kid, now ... Read More
Economy & Business

Trade Misunderstandings

I was distracted by other policy topics last week but not enough not to notice Peter Navarro’s article in the Wall Street Journal, headlined “China’s Faux Comparative Advantage.” Considering Navarro’s position in the White House, it is unfortunate that it demonstrates some serious misunderstandings ... Read More
Culture

Monday Links

A Supercut of Epic Movie Explosions. Can You Solve These 10 Medieval Riddles? The cost to make a Margherita pizza: $1.77. How much restaurants charge on average for a pizza: $12. The actual costs of restaurant foods. Vintage animation lessons -- how to make things cute. London's "Great ... Read More
World

On Trade, No One Is Waiting for Washington

President Donald Trump’s flips and flops on trade are now as ubiquitous as his 5:00 a.m. tweets. Many predicted that trade-expansion efforts would come to a standstill and world commerce would suffer amidst all the uncertainty. Instead, the precise opposite has happened. In the last few months, it’s become ... Read More
National Security & Defense

Trump’s Syria Quandary

President Trump raised eyebrows recently when he ended a tweet lauding the airstrikes he’d ordered against chemical-weapons facilities in Syria with the words “mission accomplished.” The phrase, of course, became infamous in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, when President Bush used it in a speech ... Read More