This essay recognizes that it is hard to tell the truth about assisted suicide. Or rather, it’s hard to get people to listen. Folks generally are about as eager to delve into the issue of assisted suicide as they are to work out the details of their own funeral. It’s a delicate and unnerving subject, involving the ultimate issues of life: the reality of human mortality; fears about illness, disability, and old age; and the loss of loved ones to the dark, dank grave. Nonetheless, this essay intends to tell all these things, since they relate to euthanasia/assisted suicide.
Simply getting people to pay close attention to assisted suicide – to grapple with its threat – is often a challenging task. This is even true of people who are religious or prolife, whose faith informs them that death isn’t the end but the beginning. I understand the emotional dynamic at work. Life is difficult and worrisome enough without visiting the painful realm of assisted suicide. It is difficult even for deeply religious people, to listen, to heed, and to care enough to become involved. But avoidance of the assisted-suicide issue is a luxury that those who believe in the infinite value of all human life can no longer afford, because battles over assisted suicide are being waged – and more battles planned throughout the country.
Tragically, one major battle has already been lost: Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1994 and the law went into effect in September 1997. Today in the U.S. a small number of physicians participate actively in their patients’ suicide, and it is absolutely legal. On the bright side, since 1997, when Oregon’s voters refused to repeal the state’s assisted-suicide law, a broad-based national coalition of diverse groups has formed to oppose the death agenda. Disability-rights activists, advocates for the poor, professional associations in medicine and law, and hospice organizations – all of which tend’ to be liberal and secular – have joined with religious people and traditional prolife activists to oppose medicalized killing.
And this collaboration has borne fruit: Since 1994 five states (Maryland, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Iowa, and Michigan) have passed laws explicitly making assisted suicide a crime, while Virginia outlawed it as a civil wrong, subjecting anyone who assists in a suicide to civil litigation. In November 1998, Michigan’s voters rejected an initiative to legalize suicide by an overwhelming 71 to 29 percent.
Euthanasia Essay – Assisted Suicide
Remarkably, few have noticed that frail, elderly and terminally ill people oppose assisted suicide more than other Americans. The assisted-suicide agenda is moving forward chiefly with vocal support from the young, the able-bodied and the affluent, who may even think that their parents and grandparents share their enthusiasm. They are wrong.
Thus the assisted suicide agenda appears as a victory not for freedom, but for discrimination. At its heart lie demeaning attitudes and prejudices about the value of life with an illness or disability. All who believe in the dignity of human beings should reject such attitudes.
When people raise their voices against this injustice, let no one say that they are “imposing” their values on others. Opponents of euthanasia are standing with those who are vulnerable and marginalized, those who often lack a voice in our nation’s policies and are at serious risk of having some demeaning and lethal “values” imposed on them from the outside. Moreover, it is a source of pride that some are “inside” this issue as few others are. Christian hospitals, hospices and nursing homes, as well as Christian physicians, nurses, chaplains and others who work in secular institutions, are on the front lines in providing compassionate care for suffering patients. They know, as we do, that the humane approach to dying patients is to eliminate their physical suffering and other problems, not to eliminate the patient. They know, as Pope John Paul II has said, that “true ‘compassion’ leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear” [The Gospel of Life, 66].
Christian conferences file briefs in pending Supreme Cou…
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… “Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: attitudes and experiences of oncology patients, oncologists, and the public.” 347 The Lancet 1805 (June 29, 1996):1809
Humphry, Derek. “What’s in a word?” Euthanasia Research