Human Exceptionalism

Tasmania Seeks Broad Medicalized Killing License

During my 2010 anti-euthanasia Australian speaking tour, I debated Tasmania’s Green Party Attorney General–actually, we appeared in tandem, not together–on the Aussie equivalent of the Today Show. Three years later, and the Tasmanian Parliament will be debating a medicalized killing bill.

Demonstrating yet again, that assisted suicide/euthanasia is not about terminal illness, the legislation would create a very broad and vaguely defined license to access doctor-prescribed death. From the bill:

(1) For the purposes of this Act, an eligible medical condition is an incurable and irreversible medical condition, whether caused by illness, disease or injury –

(a) that would result in the death of a person diagnosed with the medical condition and that is causing persistent and not relievable suffering for the person that is intolerable for the person; or

(b) that is a progressive medical condition that is causing persistent and not relievable suffering, for a person diagnosed with the medical condition, that is intolerable for the person – and that is in the advanced stages with no reasonable prospect of a permanent improvement in the person’s medical condition. 

That language is broad enough to drive a hearse through. Indeed, think about the kinds of situations that would permit doctor-prescribed death. Asymptomatic HIV causing serious existential suffering and fear? Sure. Diabetes caused blindness or neuropathy?  Yes. Spinal cord injury?  Yup. Rheumatoid arthritis? Indeed.

As to the “not relievable suffering” aspect, it is all smoke and mirrors. The key clause is “intolerable for the person,” meaning that even if, say morphine, could make pain more bearable as a medical matter, that would not make a patient ineligible to be made dead if he or she said living on medication was intolerable. 

The bill would also permit active euthanasia:

(1) For the avoidance of doubt, prescribed medication may be administered to an eligible person by –

(a) the eligible person; or

(b) the eligible person’s primary medical practitioner.

I am so weary of these preliminaries. The essential question is: Should society permit anyone who has a persistent desire to die access to active facilitation? That’s the inevitable logic of the euthanasia/assisted suicide movement. Because if eliminating the sufferer is a legitimate reaction to suffering, we are on a downhill path with inadequate breaks to stop the car.

At the very least, I hope supporters will admit that the ubiquitous advocacy claim that assisted suicide will be a very restricted procedure, strictly limited to the dying for whom nothing else can be done to alleviate suffering, is patently false. That isn’t true anywhere it has been legalized or proposed.

 

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

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