Did you know that a bill was introduced in the 2015 Nevada legislative session that would have allowed physicians to assist patients in committing suicide? It didn’t get much media coverage, and thankfully Sen. Joe Hardy, who is a doctor, made sure that SB 336 never made it out of committee. However, the sponsors of the so-called “death with dignity” bill have promised to bring it up again at the next session. We can’t allow legislation like this to pass in Nevada.
This bill, which is patterned after the law passed by Oregon in 1997, has received support from people influenced by emotional stories of terminally ill patients who want to end their terrible suffering, and by media coverage of people like Brittany Maynard, the young woman who wanted to die “on her own terms.” At first glance, physician-assisted suicide seems like a logical and humane solution to help ease suffering and give people control over their own destinies.
But a closer look shows us that this is just the first step toward further devaluation of human life. We already know that laws allowing abortions have cheapened human life so much that many women use abortion as a means of birth control. “Oops, I’m pregnant. I’ll just go down to the clinic and have a procedure.” I guess it’s no surprise that devaluing the beginning of human life would generate a movement to devalue its end as well. Once we start to play God, when do we stop?
There are many reasons to be wary of assisted suicide. For a list of 30 of them, check out http://www.thecompassionatechoice.com/30-logical-reasons-against-assisted-suicide/.
Here are just a few:
Everyone knows that doctors occasionally make mistakes. Even though a patient may be given only a few months to live, it’s possible that the diagnosis was wrong, or that the patient will beat the odds and live longer than expected. It’s also possible that a cure or treatment may be discovered, and it would be tragic to give up too soon.
Studies have shown that people fear pain and suffering more than death itself. Modern medicine has so many ways now to ease pain and make a person’s final days comfortable. Hospice care helps people spend their last days in relative comfort, often at home surrounded by loved ones. There are very few cases in which pain can’t be managed.
Groups representing disabled people are especially concerned about this issue. Is it’s okay to kill someone because they don’t want to be helpless or disabled, what does that say about the value of a person with disabilities? That their lives aren’t worth living and they’d be better off dead?
Making assisted suicide an acceptable option is bound to make other forms of suicide more acceptable as well, for anyone who’s depressed, for the elderly or disabled, or even for troubled teens. In fact, Oregon’s suicide rate has been increasing since 2000, and is several times the national average. Suicide is already the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. We should do whatever we can to discourage it, not to make it more attractive.
People supporting this movement claim it allows people to control their own life, including how to end it. In fact, legislation like this runs the real risk of a patient giving up control – to a doctor, to an insurance company, to unscrupulous relatives or guardians, or even to the government. When considering the possible unintended consequences, it makes sense to follow the money. Medicine to end your life may cost less than $50, compared to thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical care that prolongs your life.
If you die early, your health insurance company saves money. Medicare and Social Security have to pay out less. Your heirs will inherit more if you don’t spend your savings on long-term medical care. It’s easy to see that making assisted suicide readily available will put great pressure on sick or elderly people to end their lives so they don’t inconvenience others. Granny’s too much trouble? Let’s talk her into asking the doctor to end her life. Much easier for everyone!
And it’s possible that the “social good” of saving the government money will encourage government-run healthcare to favor assisted suicide over life-prolonging measures. Think that wouldn’t happen? A cancer patient in Oregon got a letter from the state-run health plan saying it would pay for his assisted suicide, but not for expensive chemotherapy.1
When the Nazis took over Germany in the 1930s, one of the first things they did was legalize physician-assisted suicide, getting support by showing propaganda films about people suffering needlessly and asking their doctors for relief. Once they convinced people that this was a good idea, they moved on to eliminating criminally insane people, severely handicapped children, and very elderly people. We all know where that ended.
And it’s happening in the Netherlands right now. The Dutch passed a law in 2002 that legalizes euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in very specific cases, such as when the patient’s suffering is unbearable with no hope of improvement.2 Then a 2004 law legalized the killing of severely disabled babies to save their parents distress.3 In 2010 an initiative petition proposed that anyone over the age of 70 should have the right to demand medical help in ending their life if they were tired of living, even if they’re healthy. Even though it didn’t pass, it got a lot of support. Slippery slope, indeed!
The fact is that once we stop valuing human life – born or unborn, healthy or ill, young or old – there’s no going back. We need to watch out for any future attempt to cheapen human life and fight it with all we’ve got.