Editor’s note. The following appeared over the weekend at the site of “True Dignity Vermont: Vermont Citizens Against Assisted Suicide.” It begins with a link to an article that “is tentatively supportive of euthanasia and assisted suicide under certain circumstances,” written by David Penberthy for an Australian newspaper. Vermont recently passed “the most dangerous assisted suicide bill in United States.”
True Dignity adamantly disagrees with the author’s supposition that there is ever a “need” for the legalization of assisted suicide or euthanasia. We are posting the link because the article contains a quote from Dr. Phillip Nitschke, the leading assisted suicide/euthanasia advocate in Australia. Nitschke’s comment perfectly illustrates something we think we began to perceive towards the end of the debate leading up to the legalization of assisted suicide in Vermont.
Nitschke said, “There will be some casualties, but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information.”
“Casualties” are acceptable? Is this why the Vermont legislators ignored warnings from doctors, ethicists, and lawyers that there would be casualties of legalizing assisted suicide? These “casualties”, these experts and people with experience said, will include suicidal people without terminal disease, who will learn from the law that their state views suicide as an acceptable solution to some problems; people with disabilities whose lives will be devalued as “undignified,” giving the state a reason to cut back on the services they must have to survive; people whose diseases could have been treated or who were never terminal, who might have lived for years; the poor who, like at least two people in Oregon, are likely to be denied state insurance coverage for treatment on the basis that it does not promise a certain statistical life expectancy while being offered assisted suicide coverage; and those who get the prescription for “peace of mind” and are then left unprotected from caretaker abuse , including murder.
During the debate the night the Vermont House passed the assisted suicide law, we heard Representative Duncan Kilmartin ask Representative Sandy Haas, the bill’s floor manager, whether it contained protections against homicide once the patient had filled the prescription. She rambled. Kilmartin interjected that she was not answering his question. House Speaker Shap Smith, an assisted suicide supporter, told him sharply to stop interrupting and allow Haas to answer the question. She rambled some more and finally said the affected people would be terminally ill. That’s really the only substantial answer she gave, honestly.
We invite an answer from Sandy Haas and the other proponents of the Vermont law. Are they holding to their years-long denial that there will be “casualties,” as Nitschke readily admits? Or, as we are beginning to suspect, do they consider such “casualties” an acceptable price to pay for the “peace of mind” they say some people will feel from having the “choice” at life’s end to commit suicide by prescription (www.patientchoices.org; see first video “Governor Shumlin Signs End of Life Bill, May 20 2013”)?
Are “casualties” among the terminally ill more acceptable to them than “casualties” among the healthy population? Are a certain number of murders of dying people acceptable in the name of “choice”, murder being by definition an unchosen death? If so, how many murders would be OK?
We invite answers to these questions from the legislators who voted for the Vermont law, or from others who favor assisted suicide and/or euthanasia. There were numerous comments to the article containing Nitschke’s comment, almost all of them pro-euthanasia. Not one addressed the question of “casualties.”
We wonder why.