An earnest young man recently wrote to me confused because the "assisted suicide" semantics had him feeling that perhaps this wasn't all that bad. He also feels that perhaps it is... but felt inadequate in facing it as opposed to the ease of confronting 'euthanasia.'
There is an intentional and subtle move by the slicker euthanasia folk to silence and or 'tweak' the language of the Humphrys, and Kevorkians, and Nietschkes. We know they want to control the debate and the definitions. I believe we -- at the right times -- need to let the true nature of their advocacy be made manifest, and not follow the daintier (and false) distinctions that the 'nicer folks' in Compassion and Choices insist is their reality. (I welcome your comments.)
Here is my response to him:
Sure, Josh, thanks for asking.
I will give a short 'thumbnail' here but let's talk in greater depth soon! Honestly, bold "killers" like [euthanasia advocate] Derek Humphry have written and advocated that these are in fact two sides of the same thing, the only difference is perspective. (See Final Exit, first edition).
"Euthanasia" is a neo-logism from Greek but coined in the 18th century, it means simply 'good death,' ostensibly for benevolent reasons. You can have voluntary, involuntary (where the wishes of victim are unknown) and non-voluntary euthanasia, which is action taken against the wishes of the victim. (Sadly some now use 'Euthanasia' only to describe this last action - this is making a needlessly false comparative 'moral scale' in which the other forms of euthanasia can somehow be considered truly 'benevolent' because only the latter form is the 'bad one.' We will no longer call them (voluntary and involuntary euthanasia ) by that 'unpleasant' word.
Humphry knows and has stated that all are indeed euthanasia, and he is an unabashed euthanasia advocate. More 'refined' euthanasia advocates have recognized that Humphry is far too open and bold for the good of the movement, and that he might alienate the otherwise ignorant masses. They want people to think, "euthanasia" is only what those evil nazis did and "we would never advocate what Nazis did...that was euthanasia...we merely want people to be free to choose."
But in point of fact they are indeed advocating a particular form of voluntary euthanasia. Assisted suicide involves the action of an outside party in the supposedly 'benevolent' killing. While I freely use the term "assisted suicide" as it allows us to examine the debate, you are right that the confusion they seek -- to declare 'euthanasia' a "bad thing" and yet assisted suicide as somehow an unrelated good thing, (even though it is a form of voluntary euthanasia) is indeed gaining traction.
Yes, because of the adjective, it is not suicide in the true sense as the 'assistant' now means that the 'suicidal act' is altered in both physical and moral quality. But what is NOT altered is that it is killing (not some 'natural act,' or 'letting people die from an illness') and a third-part is instrumental in this - supposedly for benevolent reasons. It is indeed a form of voluntary euthanasia.
Unfortunately some folks on our side step into the false distinction of also only allowing 'Nazi style' killing to be referred to as 'euthanasia,' thereby giving the impression there are other forms of 'killing for benevolence' that ought NOT be called euthanasia. But "killing for benevolence' is indeed the meaning of that word.
I use the term "assisted suicide" freely... But ultimately, we serve their wishes if we consistently refuse to point out the insidious nature of voluntary euthanasia.
Death as a Salesman