Assisted suicide is many things; abandonment, lethal, dangerous, discriminatory–but to its supporters, merciful and respectful of individual autonomy. But it is not medicine. Everyone knows this, of course. But to gain public respectability and thereby gain legalization, advocates know they have to hijack the authority of the doctor in the cause. Indeed, during a public forum about a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California about eight years ago, I confronted the sponsor, Sen. Dion Aroner, and accused her of abusing medicine to obtain an ideological victory. I was impressed by her candid response: She said, and this is a close paraphrase, that she would prefer not to involve the medical system, but politically it was necessary.
Now the Guardian has published a report on “non medical” assisted suicide organizations in Switzerland. From the story:
In Switzerland the law allows people to be helped to end their lives as long as the patient is mentally fit to make that decision and the helper is not motivated by self-interest. Dignitas is one of the country’s four non-medical right-to-die organisations. But while it and Exit International both help foreign nationals, the other two assist only Swiss people.
The Guardian is wrong about needing to be mentally fit in Switzerland: the Swiss Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill, demonstrating that legalization eventually will become a very broad license. But beside that point, the Swiss approach demonstrates that assisted suicide is not a medical act. I mean, would there ever be a “non medical appendectomy?” How about a “non medical chemotherapy?”
The evidence is everywhere: Dignitas and the other Swiss suicide clinics, the Final Exit Network’s promotion of using helium and a plastic bag to end it all, Derek Humphry’s and Phillip Nitschke’s odious books on how-to-commit suicide, family members assisting suicides when they would never perform surgery or prescribe, etc.–all reveal the the act of assisted suicide isn’t medicine. Those who pretend otherwise by promoting what they call “a medical model,” subvert the profession to serve their own ideology.