Selling Death: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide Advocates Market Their Agenda

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 8, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Selling Death: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide Advocates Market Their Agenda Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Pamela Hennessy
August 8, 2006 Note: Pamela Hennessy is the founder of the Partnership for Medical Ethics Reform and was a media spokeswoman for Terri Schiavo’s family.

As someone who has been in marketing and public relations for nearly 20 years, I know — as well as anyone else in the business — that the success of any marketing campaign is largely, if not entirely, based on crafting language that makes the sale of a product seem like the solution to a customer’s problem.

In advertising, designers and copywriters assume the posture that the intended customer has a problem that can be worked out by the use or purchase of their client’s product. If you’re thirsty, our beer will hit the spot. If you’re lonesome, our website will introduce you to new people. If you’re packing a few too many pounds, our pill will help you regain your youthful figure.

More than stunning visuals, clever slogans or even word-of-mouth referral, providing someone with soft, fleshy language that promises a solution to a problem is, by far, the most compelling and fail-safe form of advertising there is.

Upon my second read of "Forced Exit" by attorney, consumer advocate and author Wesley J. Smith, I noticed that Smith makes frequent reference to the language used by pro-euthanasia advocates in their attempts to swoon the public into accepting mercy killing as a medical response to complicated situations.

Smith seems to sit somewhere in the middle between astonished by the death marketers’ spin and disgusted at the intellectual dishonesty of their campaigns.

Calling up terms such as "compassion," "choice" and "easy landing," pro-euthanasia and mercy-killing advocates have crafted out a rather brilliant advertising campaign that has influenced the general public in a successful and most dangerous way.

Following the death of Terri Schiavo in Florida, the media and press tried their hands at acting in the role of advertising gurus by insisting that Terri’s fate would not be yours … if only you had a living will.

In what I find to be the most irresponsible, poorly researched and ham-handed display of poor journalism in my recent memory, columnists went to great lengths to convince the American public that a living will was the end-all, be-all answer to the problems of complicated medical decisions or end-of-life dilemmas.

To put it as politely as I can possibly manage, that’s a load of rubbish.

A living will or advanced directive for healthcare are not things to be entered into hastily and certainly not in response to the misfortunes of other people. One must carefully consider what types of care they consider appropriate and move forward from there, ever mindful that ethics committees in hospitals and nursing homes may well have different ideas.

The decision to declare your own medical treatment decisions may very well be the most important decision you ever make. How dare a lazy or ill-researched columnist try to spook you into signing your life away?

What the euthanasia advocates in this country have in mind has little to do with compassion, choice or any so-called easy landing. Their interest is focused on taking such things away from you in the interest of creating not a right-to-die but a duty-to-die.

Healthcare costs, as we all know, are completely and utterly off the hook. HMOs have, effectively, changed the medical and healthcare delivery system from a pay-as-you-go method to a system that answers to bloated shareholders. The first obligation of the HMO no longer sits with the patient’s well-being.

Some doctors and facilities will tell you they are penalized for providing "too much care."

Too much care?

That is not to say that all doctors, nurses or healthcare practitioners are out to do you in or even bend easily to the demands of the corporate system that sees incapacitated human beings as strains on the system. The vast majority of healthcare workers see healing and caring not as a career but as a calling. They are, however, very small voices when compared to those who approve or disapprove a course of care in the clinical environment, all the while keeping cost factors in mind.

Still, the pro-euthanasia advocates rally around things intended to create, in your mind, a problem to which only they hold a solution. In honest observation, their marketing messaging falls rather short of the mark.

Death dealers want you to believe that a natural death from a terminal illness automatically means you will be subjected to excruciating and dehumanizing pain. That’s simply not the case anymore. Palliative care, now, is as good as good can be and patients are permitted to receive adequate pain relief — even to the point that they receive sedation.

These euthanasia Mafiosos would also like you to wrap your arms around the notion that signing your life away is an act of freedom. Reality and case law tell us that nothing could be further from the truth. After all, circuit courts ordering the removal of ordinary care — with the sole intention of making you dead — seems to take the whole ‘freedom’ thing completely out of the picture. And, it happens all the time.

Some of these so-called compassionate types will even urge you not to be a burden on your family and loved ones.

Come on.

We’re reducing human beings to be meaningless liabilities in the name of dignity? What point of discourse could possibly be more ignorant, ironic and outright foolish than that?

What a surreal juxtaposition to call the right-to-die a mark of human dignity, all the while making sure Nana isn’t draining your inheritance. Not very dignified, is it?

With all of their soothing words, well-crafted marketing and fear-based sales pitches, the right to kill lobby has missed out on a very real side of the consumer they wish to influence.

People want to live.

In my travels, I’ve met numerous disabled people who, upon becoming disabled or dependent, wished for death — asked their families or friends to do them in — tried to do themselves in. They all changed their minds, eventually. With just a bit of help, tenderness and understanding, they all went on to carve out happy lives.

We don’t need to prey upon the weak. We need to assist them when asked. We need to love them and value them. Not abandon them. Not devalue them. Certainly not strip them of their uniqueness or personhood.

Of course, the pro-euthanasia folks would prefer that you believe such humane gestures are nothing more than pesky interference into personal issues. I must confess that I have never put my hands out to someone in need (be it someone on the street or someone in a nursing home) and received a warbling "NO THANKS" in return. But, that’s just language.

The well-crafted, marketing-savvy language of the pro-euthanasia crowd goes on and on — and it changes with the tide. The language of those who cherish all of us equally — regardless of limitations or circumstances — remains the same.

Killing ain’t right.