Assisted Suicide Sometimes Used on Patients Not Terminally Ill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 21, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Assisted Suicide Sometimes Used on Patients Not Terminally Ill Email this article
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by Greg Piper
November 21, 2005

If you’re interested in medical ethics surrounding assisted suicide, quality of life and such, two great sources for such news and commentary are Slate’s Will Saletan and bioethics writer Wesley J. Smith. The latter points out that assisted suicide has been carried out on the non-terminally ill — with their representatives sometimes lying to get around terminally-ill requirements in national laws — and we shouldn’t be surprised:

After all, if assisted suicide is about honoring “choice” and “ending suffering,” how can it be limited to the dying? As these two examples, and the broader cases among the Dutch and Belgians have clearly shown, it won’t be. Restricting hastened death to the dying is just a political tool to get people used killing as an acceptable response to illness or one of life’s other serious difficulties.

Smith is also one of the leading advocates for effective pain medication – an issue frequently putting him at odds with an overly cautious (and occasionally repressive) FDA and Justice Department. If you don’t want people in horrible pain to seek help in suicide, they need very powerful drugs to keep them out of pain – something our federal agencies seem to wave off. Our kids might smoke pot if patients in mind-numbing pain get OxyContin!

Smith also points to the first case of an animal as a litigant in a lawsuit (in Brazil):

Imagine the harm to scientific advancement if a lab rat could sue for assault and battery because it was the subject of a medical experiment. Consider the consequences if a horse or a cow could sue to be freed from involuntary servitude. Animal liberationists would use the legal system to drive animal-using businesses into the dirt. Indeed, I have no doubt that is the plan.

On more positive fronts, he notes that the good news about adult stem cells being used to treat an increasing number of conditions has reached the NYT (via AP) and Reuters, although these higher-profile mentions are still mostly relegated to the inside pages or ever-changing feed lists on websites. It’s still something. Embryonic stem cells only get coverage because they’re controversial – not because they’ve been shown to do anything in practice yet. So make sure to bookmark Smith’s excellent blog. (Disclaimer: Smith is my former colleague at the Discovery Institute, but I was a fan of his writing long before that.