New York Times Wants to know why Americans “Balk” at Assisted Suicide

By Dave Andrusko

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but reading the New York Times, often you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, so outrageous is its pervasive, all-consuming anti-life bias.

The question posed in a “room for debate” forum is (and I kid you not), “Why Do Americans Balk at Euthanasia Laws?: What would need to change before the U.S. would legalize physician-assisted suicide?”

There are eight short essays posted.  To be fair, the skeptics are well chosen and they present the case against it well.

What’s immediately interesting is that the Times’ question makes some of the proponents nervous. They don’t want to talk about euthanasia—the direct killing of patients—they want to rhapsodize over “assisted suicide,” or (much better!) “Permitting doctors to help dying patients who are suffering unbearably to die sooner and more peacefully.”

If you are against assisted suicide in principle, it is not comforting to be told, “Assisted suicide should not be legalized in America before we have addressed our glaring inequalities in health care…” (This, in theory, answers the question why Black people are more against assisted suicide than white people and to get them on board.)

So, why do we “balk” at these practices, bearing in mind that most of the respondents were talking about assisted suicide?

Well, the first answer is where it IS legal in the U.S. (Oregon and Washington), supposedly people are comfortable with it. This ignores a whole host of objections other contributors make, including concerns about elder abuse (“In Oregon, once the lethal drug is in the home, no one can know how or by whom it was administered. No witness is required. Today’s harsh reality regarding abuse of vulnerable family members is unaddressed by the law”), and the lack of enforcement  and vagueness (“Oregon’s ‘safeguards’ offer no protection. If a doctor refuses, patients find another doctor. ‘Death within six months’ is often misdiagnosed…”).

Some proponents gingerly step around the role of religion while others forthrightly celebrate its lack of influence in places such as the Netherlands. Making the Catholic Church the bogeyman is an old, old tactic and misses the absolutely central truth about the coalition that opposes assisted suicide: it most often is led by disability rights organizations who understand that the “right” to assisted suicide can and will morph easily into a duty to “get out of the way.”

You can read the entire set of essays in ten minutes, so let me make just one more point. The representative from the Netherlands writes about  how “Slowly, the legal system here became more lenient toward doctors performing euthanasia on humanitarian grounds, as requested by the patients.” Well, that’s hardly the complete story but it does tell us that the Netherlands has come a long way down the slippery slope.

For one thing, doctors in the Netherlands will euthanize not-residents, helping to establish a flourishing trade in “assisted-suicide tourism,” as it’s been called.

For another thing, as we’ve written about many times, “Cases justifying euthanasia are spreading like wildfire in the Netherlands, to the point that visual impairment can become the primary reason to kill,” as Wesley Smith has put it. And to piggyback on a point made earlier, the government is aggressively extending the “right” to be euthanized. To quote from one account,

“De Volkskrant and Trouw report on a new development in euthanasia practice. De Volkskrant reports that, beginning in March, people who have been refused euthanasia by their own doctor will be able to call in one of six travelling teams. The groups, consisting of a doctor and a nurse, will be based in The Hague but will deal with cases throughout the country. The legal criteria that the patient must be in a situation of unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement will still apply.”

Why do Americans  ‘balk’ at assisted suicide? To quote one opponent,

“Assisted suicide is a concept contrary to public safety and a recipe for elder abuse — Americans are right to be skeptical of these laws.”

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