Thursday, June 03, 2010

Assisted suicide: why now?

Wesley J. SmithAl Pacino sympathetically portrayed Dr. Jack Kevorkian in a recent HBO movie . . .

Legatus Magazine | by Wesley J. Smith

Since 1988, when euthanasia advocates failed to qualify for a legalization initiative on the California ballot, the assisted suicide movement in the United States has gone from a barely noticed fringe movement to a well-funded political machine that threatens Hippocratic medical values and the sanctity/equality of human life.

Consider the disturbing history: In 1994, Oregon legalized assisted suicide (by a 51-49% vote), with the law going into effect in 1997. The movement had a setback in 1997 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a rare unanimous decision, that there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide. But in 2008, Washington State legalized Oregon-style assisted suicide by a lopsided 58-42%. Then, last year, Montana’s Supreme Court ruled that assisted suicide was not against the state’s “public policy.”

The euthanasia movement is not resting on its recent laurels. Advocates have filed a lawsuit in Connecticut to legalize assisted suicide by redefinition — on the dubious theory that a doctor who lethally prescribes drugs for use by a terminally ill patient is merely performing “aid in dying,” rather than the legally proscribed assisted suicide. Meanwhile, legislative legalization efforts have been initiated in Hawaii, Arizona, Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut — all without success.

A question amidst all of this Sturm und Drang naturally arises: Why now? After all, 100 years ago when people did die in agony from such illnesses as a burst appendix, there was little talk of legalizing euthanasia. But now, when pain and other forms of suffering are readily alleviated and the hospice movement has created truly compassionate methods to care for the dying, suddenly we hear the battle cry “death with dignity” as “the ultimate civil liberty.”

In fighting assisted suicide since 1993, I have often pondered the “why now” question. Read more.

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