Charles Camosy wrote an excellent article concerning the assisted suicide bill in New York that was recently published in the New York Daily News titled: Assisted Suicide vs liberal values.
Camosy begins his article by describing the personal story that Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D) says led to her supporting assisted suicide. Camosy acknowledges the pain that has led many people to support assisted suicide, but he argues that this compassion leads to unintended consequences.
No one can be unmoved by such stories. Those who support physician-assisted suicide do so out of place of deep compassion for vulnerable, suffering people.
But most people who honestly contemplate the long-term consequences of this legislation realize that legalizing the practice does the opposite of what is intended.
Such was the case in 2012 when Massachusetts had assisted suicide on the ballot. Polls indicated overwhelming support — only 19% wanted it to remain illegal. But as the people of the commonwealth began to study and understand the issue, support began to fade.
Camosy then explains why assisted suicide is not a liberal issue.
And while some think of physician-assisted suicide as a liberal cause, the rhetoric of most supporters is deeply conservative. Even libertarian: “Get big government out of our lives! Privacy! Freedom! My individual rights trump your view of justice!”
That’s why the wife of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, Victoria Kennedy, claimed that passing assisted suicide in Massachusetts would insult the memory of her husband. Physicians’ groups and disability rights organizations also let the public know they didn’t want to legalize this form of expedited dying.
The results were astonishing. In just a few months, Massachusetts progressives turned the polls around and defeated the ballot measure.
Camosy then explains why people are asking for assisted suicide and why it cannot be controlled
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The reasons far more likely to be about not wanting to be a burden on others.
But there is absolutely no way to control the reasons why anyone requests assisted suicide. Which leads to impossible questions: What’s the basis for limiting it to those who will die in six months; why not six years? Why need one be dying in the first place? We are told in other medical contexts, after all, that the state is not to get between a patient and her doctor.
Think this is too dramatic? Consider the Dutch, who also highly prize freedom and autonomy, and have had euthanasia for several decades now. They first limited it to cases of “hopeless and unbearable suffering,” but just a few years ago, an otherwise healthy woman was killed via assisted suicide simply because she was losing her eyesight.
We can see the beginnings of a similar slippery slope in Oregon, where doctors have seen assisted-suicide drugs kill depressed patients.
Camosy then differentiates assisted suicide from other liberal issues:
On other issues, liberals rightly focus on how laws affect vulnerable populations. Liberals in Massachusetts worried that older people, already thought to be a drain or burden in a culture which worships youth and capital production, might be pressured to consider assisted suicide.
Those of us with progressive philosophies must instead unequivocally affirm the goodness of the existence of the old and sick. Especially when our consumerist culture tells them they have no net value.
Given our American obsession with autonomy and freedom, this slope can do nothing but get even more slippery.
Charles Camosy is an associate professor at Fordham University.