No Limits to Assisted Suicide

This is how the public debate over assisted suicide goes. Those who support it will often express concern about ensuring patient safety and claim that the safeguards in their proposed bills and existing laws protect vulnerable patients. We respond that these protections are insufficient and that the goal of the assisted suicide movement it to expand eligibility beyond the terminally ill. When we do that, we are typically accused of alarmism, fear-mongering, and resorting to an invalid “slippery slope” fallacy.

Here’s the thing. Everything we say is absolutely true, and the advocates know it. Not only that, they confirm it by specifically advocating for reduced safeguards and expanding assisted suicide. I noted this last year by citing an article by Kathryn Tucker, a leading assisted suicide proponent, who was advocating the elimination of all safeguards — which she called “barriers”.

Now we have another example, this time from a prominent law professor, Thaddeus Mason Pope from Minnesota. He recently wrote an article for an online journal for oncologists, entitled “Medical Aid in Dying: When Legal Safeguards Become Burdensome Obstacles”. The title alone is enough to tell you the awful agenda, but the substance of the article is even worse, especially since an oncologist is often the primary physician for cancer patients.

Prof. Pope noted that the current laws in the six states that have legalized assisted suicide focus on four qualifications for eligibility: the patient is (1) an adult (2) with decision-making capacity (3) who has a terminal diagnosis and (4) is a resident of the state. The laws also involve procedural rules, a requirement that the patient takes the deadly pills herself, and some kind of referral for psychiatric evaluation. All that is true, although in New York, the propsed bill does not require residency, which would make New York a mecca for suicide.

But instead of viewing those provisions as essential protections for vulnerable patients, Prof. Pope claims that “These safeguards may be more restrictive than necessary, and in at least one important respect they may not be demanding enough.” Here is what he proposes:

Expanding From Adults to Mature Minors — He considers limiting assisted suicide to adults to be “unduly restrictive.” Study after study confirms that teenagers are not developed enough to make important decisions, and that adolescence continues well into one’s twenties. Does anyone really believe that teenagers are capable of making life-and-death decisions at an age when they cannot legally drive, enter into a contract, or vote?

Expanding From Contemporaneous Capacity to Advance Directives — This means that the patient no longer has to have decision-making capacity at the time of their suicide, but rather that the request can have been made years earlier. This would mean that patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s would be given suicide drugs to swallow at a time when they have no idea what is going on. This is no longer “suicide” in any meaningful sense — it would be euthanasia, or, to call it by its real name, murder.

Expanding From Terminal Illness to ‘Reasonably Predictable’ — The definitions in assisted suicide laws are already dangerously vague. New York’s bill would designate a person as “qualified” if they have a “terminal condition” that would lead to death in six months. To expand the definition to those whose death is merely “reasonably predictable” could mean that a person with many chronic conditions could qualify himself for assisted suicide by declining further treatments — which officials in Oregon recently confirmed when asked about that scenario. Prof. Pope clearly envisioned that precise situation, saying “this rigid time frame [the six-month requirement] excludes patients with grievous and irremediable conditions that cause suffering intolerable to the individual.” This is precisely the road that Belgium and Holland have gone down — permitting assisted suicide for those who are not going to die imminently, but who no longer wish to live because of their suffering.

Expanding From Self-Ingestion to Physician Administration — This is the final frontier. He is no longer speaking about “suicide”. This is direct advocacy for euthanasia — murder by doctor. The situation in Canada, where doctors are already euthanising patients, is cited favorably. But, unsurprisingly, he does not cite the case of Belgium and Holland, where some patients are euthanised without any request but because the family asks for it or the doctor deems the patient’s life no longer worth living.

Strengthening Mental Health Assessments — This is the only apparently positive recommendation on offer. But note the professor doesn’t advocate for a mandatory referral of the patient for assessment and treatment of a mental health problem, like depression. Rather, it would leave the referral purely within the discretion of the doctor — which is done in only about 3% of the cases in Oregon.

Note the use of terms — always “expanding”. Articles like this confirm the dangers of legalizing assisted suicide. Advocates are not interested in limits, they view them as obstacles or barriers, and will always immediately push for expansion. We cannot afford to give this movement an inch of space. The results will be much more deadly than advertised.

Tags:

Comments are closed.