Human Exceptionalism

The Washington State Assisted Suicide Campaign Begins

Booth Gardner, former governor of Washington and a very rich man, intends to buy a law for Washington legalizing assisted suicide. His opening salvo comes in an extended piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The piece is actually suprisingly fair, so fair in fact, that Gardner may not be amused.

There isn’t space in a blog to fully describe the piece. So, let’s just focus on two things. First, this is an “I-I,” “me-me” agenda of the elites and Establishment-types like Gardner. As he states in the piece:

“Why do this?” he asked, turning from the other tables toward me. “I want to be involved in public life. I was looking for an issue, and this one fell in my lap. One advantage I have in this thing is that people like me. “The other”–his leprechaun eyes lost their glint; his fleshy cheeks seemed to harden, his lips to thin, his face to reshape itself almost into a square–“is that my logic is impeccable. My life, my death, my control.”

The potential for–and abuses that are actually happening–from legalized assisted suicide are well documented. But advocates like Gardner willfully ignore that part of the story. Bluntly stated, they want what they want for themselves and don’t care who gets hurt.

Second, the “my death, my life, my control” ideological agenda has nothing to do with terminal illness. If that is the cause, why not guarantee anyone with a non transitory desire to kill themselves access to assisted suicide? And indeed, Gardner acknowledges that his initiative is just a way station that would legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill on the way to a far broader license:

Yet the proposed law in Washington wouldn’t go far enough for Gardner. It wouldn’t include him. Parkinson’s isn’t terminal. The disease can leave the body trembling, contorted, rigid; it can rob the memory and muffle the voice; it can leave a person still and silent; but it doesn’t offer an end to its torture; it doesn’t kill. Gardner wants a law that would permit lethal prescriptions for people whose suffering is unbearable, a standard that can seem no standard at all; a standard that prevails in the Netherlands, the Western nation that has been boldest [most reckless is more like it] about legalizing aid in dying; a standard that elevates subjective experience over objective appraisal and that could engage the government and the medical profession in the administration of widespread suicide. What is unbearable? What level of acute or chronic physical pain would qualify? What degree of disability ? Would physicians be writing suicide prescriptions for the depressed?

Gardner’s campaign is a compromise; he sees it as a first step. If he can sway Washington to embrace a restrictive law, then other states will follow. And gradually, he says, the nation’s resistance will subside, the culture will shift and laws with more latitude will be passed, though this process, he knows, would almost surely take too long to help him.

Indeed. That is the agenda and good for Gardner for being candid. With assisted suicide it is in for an inch, in for a mile. If we are to debate this as a society, it should be from that truth, not the phony-baloney ideas of “guidelines” that won’t actually–and are not intended to–stop abuse or Siren-song false assurances of limitations on assisted suicide to those diagnosed as terminally ill.

Read the whole thing. It will be worth your time.


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