by Steven Ertelt
April 14, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — During the faith debate at Messiah College on Sunday night, pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama largely avoided a question about whether patients should be allowed to have a right to assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Clinton was asked if she "believe[s] it is compassionate, that it is appropriate to let someone who is really suffering choose to end their life."
"Again, this is one of those incredibly challenging issues," she responded.
"You know, the Terri Schiavo case in Florida posed that for many people," Clinton added, referring to the case of a disabled woman whose former husband won the legal right to subject her a painful 13-day starvation and dehydration euthanasia death.
She called the Schiavo case one where "there were people of good faith and people of strong feelings on both sides about what should happen to that woman’s life."
Ultimately, Clinton said she was unsure whether government should allow assisted suicide or euthanasia.
"I don’t know that any of us is in a position to make that choice for families or for individuals, but I don’t want us also to condone government action that would legitimize or encourage end-of-life decisions," she said.
Clinton appeared to ask more questions than give answers to the bioethics concerns.
"Somehow there has to be a framework for us to determine how can people who are either able to make these decisions on their own do so? Or if they are not, how best do we create a decision process for their families to try to decide?" she added.
Clinton also appeared to touch on issues like embryonic stem cell research and human cloning in her final comment on the issue but remained noncommittal.
"And now we are being faced with a lot of these difficult decisions because of the world we live in today with modern technology and so much else. And we’re going to have to come to grips with them one way or another," she said.
Meanwhile, Obama was asked about patients who "wanted to take active steps to end his or her own life."
Obama said society has to be "very careful in making end-of-life decisions" and he promoted patients having a living will to register their treatment choices.
The Illinois senator said he wanted to make sure patients can relieve their own pain but said that opened up other questions.
"What happens then is you start getting into a gray area where relieving pain and suffering may accelerate death in some situations and that’s a decision that should be made by the individual, the family and the doctor," he said.
"I don’t think that it’s appropriate to empower doctors themselves to make that decision," he added, appearing to oppose involuntary euthanasia.
Yet, Obama, like Clinton, appeared noncommittal on the assisted suicide question, and again repeated he wanted terminally ill patients to be able to control their pain — something the pro-life community has never opposed.
Asked in a followup if that meant he would be open to patients hastening the end of their lives, he said that has to be distinguished from euthanasia.
"I think that there has to be very strict guidelines to ensure that somebody who is making a decision to relieve their pain that might take a week away from their life just because they are — they are slipping into a coma quicker, for example," Obama said.
"That that is distinguished from — or at least there’s a possibility that they slip into a coma. That that’s distinguished from euthanasia in which someone else is making the decision for them," he concluded.