How Can You Talk About Suicide Prevention and Support Assisted Suicide?

Opinion   |   Wesley J. Smith   |   May 22, 2015   |   7:04AM   |   Salem, OR

I am a big believer in suicide prevention. But the movement has been derelict in struggling against blatant suicide promotion from the so-called “death with dignity” movement.

Here’s another example: Suicide preventers in Washington County, Oregon are pushing for a zero suicide rate.

From the Oregon story:

Suicide can be prevented. That was the takeaway message at the Washington County Suicide Prevention Council’s Summit of Hope on Wednesday, May 13. “The reality is individuals don’t want to die by suicide as much as they want to end the anguish and pain they are experiencing,” said David Covington, an expert on the Zero Suicide initiative and the keynote speaker at the free event.

Covington said it’s a myth to think a person cannot be helped if they are set on killing him or herself while under the supervision of a health care professional. Instead, training can help identify warning signs and provide appropriate steps for intervention.

“The programmatic approach of Zero Suicide is based on the realization that suicidal individuals often fall through cracks in a fragmented, and sometimes distracted, health care system,” according to a website dedicated to Zero Suicide.

Great. I hope they reach their goal.

But, what about helping people not commit assisted suicide?

Just as I thought: Crickets.

But suicide is suicide. Unless the county preventers work to provide suicide prevention for those asking for lethal prescriptions, they will never meet their goal.

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And  people diagnosed with terminal conditions who become suicidal will continue to receive suicide facilitation rather than prevention.

Why not have a special outreach to those who are thinking of requesting a lethal prescription? Because ignoring that cadre tacitly agrees that their lives are not worth living.

Suicide prevention that omits the doctor-prescribed suicide crisis is derelict in its mission. Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exeptionalism.