Assisted Suicide Backers Mislead the Public: Not About Alleviating Suffering

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 11, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Assisted Suicide Backers Mislead the Public: Not About Alleviating Suffering

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by Wesley J. Smith
August 11, 2008 Note: Award winning author Wesley J. Smith is special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. His current book is Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World.

I have become so sick and tired of the baloney that swirls around assisted suicide advocacy like gruel in a blender.

Assisted suicide is not really about the rare case when nothing else can be done to alleviate suffering–which has not been the case yet in any legalized jurisdiction from the Netherlands, to Switzerland, to Oregon. Rather, it is about establishing the right to what in essence would be death on demand.

This is clearly stated in a speech given by Ludwig Minelli, the suicide zealot who heads Dignitas.

Writing about the Swiss Supreme Court ruling granting a right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill — which I wrote about here — Minelli claims that suicide and assisted suicide both are human rights. In other words, the so-called limitations that would limit this killing to the terminally or hopelessly ill are bogus.

From his speech (no link):

If the Right to Suicide is a Human Right, and no doubt whatsoever can be raised after this outstanding Swiss decision, we must accept that, in order to make use of this right, there must be no legal requirements other than that the person has the mental capacity needed to decide to end his or her own life. Conditions which insisted that somebody must be terminally or severely ill would interfere with the essence of that Human Right. Human Rights are, inherently, unconditional. They cannot be made subject to conditions – this is fundamental to their being meaningful for the humans who bear them.

But this so-called right is even more that an individual right to do with one’s own body what one will–it includes the right to help from others to make sure one gets dead:

"Does the fact that there is a risk of about 9 to 1 or even of about 49 to 1 of failure with every suicide attempt have some impact on the consideration of this Human Right? I think it does.

If the European Convention on Human Rights really does guarantee the Right to self-determination and, thereby, the Right to Suicide, this right cannot exist, in reality, while there is such a high risk of failure. This is especially true given that the risk is not only that of failing to die but the far greater risk of ending up in a much more desperate condition than before."

Minelli gives lip service to prevention, but if a patient knows that death is at the end of that process, prevention just becomes a hoop to jump through, indeed a hoop that would fall by the wayside as other so-called guidelines have wherever assisted suicide is legalized.

It is also worth noting that the speech was given to Dutch euthanasia advocates who already live in the most euthanasia friendly country in the world–and yet it is still not enough. That is because it never will be enough.

So this is the future that assisted suicide/euthanasia advocates either explicitly seek, or will bring about whether or not that is there intention since the logic here is impeccable.

The answer, of course, is that there is no "right" to suicide, that societies have the duty to protect all people’s lives–even from self destruction–and that, as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life is inalienable.

So too with selling oneself into slavery and declaring a right to burn your arms with cigarettes–both "choices" that should also be prohibited. Such actions not only harm the individual, but are profoundly subversive of decency and equal regard for the lives of all people in society.


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