Considering Some Consequences of Government-Sanctioned Assisted Suicide

A 2015 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 68 percent of Americans favor decriminalizing physician-assisted suicide (PAS) for painful and incurable conditions.[i] Apparently, many people are influenced by the propaganda of PAS advocates (e.g., Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society), with the support of elite opinion makers and members of the media, who play on everyone’s natural fear of pain and suffering. But, have the majority of Americans made a serious effort to consider the pitfalls of allowing medical participation in killing?

 

Not the solution to human suffering

 

It may be counter-intuitive to assert that making it legal for doctors to assist patients to commit suicide is detrimental to solving the problem of suffering. Nevertheless, the Pro-life Healthcare Alliance dares to do just that, because legal and social approval for killing oneself with medical assistance actually worsens a number of problems. Consider the observations of people who have studied and contemplated the immediate and long-term consequences of government-sanctioned assisted suicide.

 

Mark Davis Pickup, a Canadian pro-life activist disabled by multiple sclerosis, comments on Canada’s legalization of PAS:

 

There are a vast array of modern pain control medications and techniques to eliminate suffering without hastening death. That is not the intent of the new law. In fact, I assert the new law for assisted suicide will ultimately discourage advances in end-of-life care.

 

This is what happened in the Netherlands where assisted suicide has been practiced for decades. In their 2015 book It’s Not That Simple: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Today,palliative care nurse Jean Echlin and Ian Gentles write about Holland’s virtual abandonment of palliative care: “That country [Holland] has now a total of only 70 palliative-care beds, in contrast to the many thousands of such beds in Britain, which has not legalized euthanasia.” It stands to reason that assisted suicide and euthanasia discourage proper end-of-life care.”[ii]

 

Richard Weikart, author of The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life, is concerned about “the way that our intellectual culture has promoted the view that humans should be treated like animals.” He writes,

 

Ironically, however, proponents of assisted suicide are trying to take the moral high-ground by insisting that their position gives humans more dignity.

 

The crucial question then is: Does assisted suicide for terminally ill patients really provide a “Death with Dignity”? Or, is it a bold step downward into the depths of degradation by treating our fellow humans as just another animal?[iii]

 

Another very important fact is that pain is not reported as a major factor in decisions to request assisted suicide. An examination of the recently released Washington State Department of Health 2015 Death with Dignity Report [iv]  is revealing. A participant of the Death with Dignity Act is defined in this report as “someone to whom medication was dispensed in 2015 under the terms of the act.” There were 213 reported participants, 166 of whom have reportedly died by ingesting the doctor-prescribed lethal medication. The health department received After Death Reports for 197 participants who had died (some from natural causes). Here are the concerns they expressed to their healthcare providers:

  • 86 percent had concerns about loss of autonomy.
  • 69 percent had concerns about loss of dignity.
  • 86 percent had concerns about loss of the ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable

Neither actual pain nor fear of pain was reported as a concern of these participants!

 

Opens the door to a host of evils

 

Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, pointing out that PAS can easily be perpetrated as a form of elder abuse, cautions,

 

What age group in America is least supportive of legalizing assisted suicide? In many polls it is those aged 65 and over. In a national poll commissioned by the U.S. bishops’ conference in 2014, for example, only 46% of seniors supported the idea. Strongest support (60%) was found among their grown children–35 to 44 year-olds, the “sandwich generation” now often caring and paying for both children and aging parents.

 

How tempting it might be, for those in this situation with no strong moral compass, to believe that assisted suicide is a new “freedom” for one’s parents.

 

Eighteen years ago Derek Humphry, Hemlock’s founder, wrote in his book Freedom to Diethat “in the final analysis, economics, not the quest for broadened individual liberties or increased autonomy, will drive assisted suicide to the plateau of acceptable practice.” C&C wants to draw the curtain over this aspect of its agenda. The rest of us, especially seniors, need to open our eyes and see through the masquerade.[v]

 

Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post, examining the progression of “physician-assisted dying” (a euphemism for assisted suicide and euthanasia) in Belgium and the Netherlands, states:

 

Next door in the Netherlands, which decriminalized euthanasia in 2002, right-to-die activists opened a clinic in March 2012 to “help” people turned down for lethal injections by their regular physicians. In the next 12 months, the clinic approved euthanasia for six psychiatric patients, plus 11 people whose only complaint was being “tired of living,” according to a report in the Aug. 10, [2015] issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.


If you find this sinister, I agree. Bioethicists Barron H. Lerner and Arthur L. Caplan, who reviewed the data from the Low Countries in JAMA Internal Medicine, observe that the reports “seem to validate concerns about where these practices might lead.”[vi]

 

Paul Stark, Communications Associate for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, is concerned about the phenomenon of suicide contagion:

 

Suicide is a scourge and a tragedy. It is one of the leading causes of death in the United States–40,600 Americans killed themselves in 2012–and its frequency has only increased in recent years. Suicide affects not only those whose lives are lost, but also families, schools, communities, and society as a whole. Advocating or legalizing assisted suicide makes this devastating problem worse. It says that suicide isn’t always bad. It influences vulnerable people. And more lives are lost as a result.[vii]

 

Finally, physicians must be reminded that their time-honored Hippocratic Oath states, “I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan.” Physician participation in killing patients was evil 2,400 years ago, and it is evil still.

 

I don’t believe the majority of Americans would intentionally support evil. I do believe most people are genuinely sympathetic to those who suffer. They simply don’t know what they are doing when they support PAS. It is up to us, who have examined the facts and thoroughly considered the consequences of decriminalizing PAS, to speak up now--before the majority, in their ignorance, vote based on their fears rather than the facts.

 

[i]Michael Lipka, “California legalizes assisted suicide amid growing support for such laws,” Pew Research Center, October 5, 2015, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/05/california-legalizes-assisted-suicide-amid-growing-support-for-such-laws.

 

[ii]Mark Davis Pickup, “Christian Responses to Medical Killing,” Human Life Matters (blog), July 31, 2016,
http://www.humanlifematters.org/2016/07/christian-responses-to-medical-killing.html.

 

[iii] Richard Weikart, “Assisted Suicide Is ‘Putting People Down,'” Townhall, May 7, 2016,  http://townhall.com/columnists/richardweikart/2016/05/07/assisted-suicide-is-putting-people-down-n2159246.

 

[iv] Washington State Department of Health 2015 Death with Dignity Report Executive Summary,

http://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/Pubs/422-109-DeathWithDignityAct2015.pdf. 

 

[vi] Richard M. Doerflinger, “The True Face of Assisted Suicide,” Life Issues Forum, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, February 26, 2016,

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/life-issues-forum/the-true-face-of-assisted-suicide.cfm.

 

[vii] Charles Lane, “Europe’s Sinister Expansion of Euthanasia,” The Washington Post, August 19, 2015,https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/euthanasias-slippery-slope/2015/08/19/4c13b12a-45cf-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html

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[vii] Paul Stark, “Assisted Suicide and Contagion: How assisted suicide advocacy and legalization threaten the lives of vulnerable people,” Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, May 2015,

http://www.mccl.org/assisted-suicide-contagion.html.