A perplexing and very unfortunate column in favor of assisted suicide by George Will

GeorgeWill43By Dave Andrusko

Over the weekend, a piece by syndicated columnist George Will appeared in the Washington Post on one of our Movement’s core issues– physician-assisted suicide.

This was the same man who a month ago wrote “Planned Parenthood and the barbarity of America.”

Will’s capacity to cut through PPFA’s rhetorical ruses and feints was extraordinary.

He was writing about the first of the now eight undercover videos that gave us an unfiltered picture of Planned Parenthood’s planned barbarism.

Will trenchantly observed

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, apologizes for the “tone” of her operatives’ chatter about crushing babies. But the tone flows from Planned Parenthood’s premise: Why be solemn about meat?

Even partial-birth abortion is — must be — a sacrament in the Church of “Choice.” This sect knows that its entire edifice depends on not yielding an inch on its insistence that what an abortion kills never possesses a scintilla of moral significance.

Will, however, also wrote “Affirming a right to die with dignity,” which ran Sunday. I am not exaggerating when I say it’s exceedingly difficult to believe the same man wrote both.

Compounding my perplexity is that Will has also written as eloquently as it is possible to write about infanticide, no doubt in part spurred by the fact that his son, Jon, has Down syndrome, the same condition that “Baby Doe’s” parents used as a reason to starve him to death in 1982.

His column on the nauseous undercover videos and Baby Doe’s ugly and wholly unnecessary death are remarkable in their depth, breadth, and moral intuition. It would seem abundantly clear that he understands perfectly what happens when we grade life on a curve or when unborn human life has moral significance only to the extent that a baby’s remains can be harvested and sent along to be experimented on.

But then came “Affirming a right to die with dignity.”

As you would’ve anticipated, bioethicist Wesley Smith pointed out some of the many and sundry ways Wills unfortunately went astray [“George Will’s cultural death wish”].

Wesley begins

What a disappointing and shallow column from George Will endorsing assisted suicide, based primarily on a bald assertion that autonomous decision making is “death with dignity.” (If committing assisted suicide is “death with dignity,” then are those who die naturally undignified?)

The column was disingenuous and misleading, both in what Will wrote and what he left out.

Obviously, I would have opposed Will’s conclusions even had they been presented in a much more coherent and defensible manner. But it was striking to read a Will column that consisted largely of bullet points you’d find in any pro-assisted suicide skein.

It’s primarily about “autonomy,” as if that is the be-all and end-all (so to speak) cultural and ethical value. Never mind that virtually every disability rights organization passionately opposes laws or court decisions that legalize physician-assisted suicide. THEY know how many others are eager to exercise their “autonomy ” for them.

As Wesley points out, dismissing the “slippery slope” argument requires being oblivious to the “facts on the ground”–that many countries have already reached the bottom of the slope, yet cannot wait to find even more justifications to “assist” even more categories of people.

What Wesley calls “euthanasia inflation” means that more and more people are encouraged to believe that their dilemma is best addressed by killing themselves. He notes

Thus, in addition to the physically ill and dying, doctors in Belgium and the Netherlands kill the mentally ill, the healthy elderly “tired of life,” and in Belgium, even engage in joint killings of married couples that fear widowhood and/or dependency.

Switzerland’s legal suicide clinics have facilitated the deaths of people who are not sick for existential reasons. Recently, an elderly Italian woman received assisted suicide because she was in despair over her loss of beauty. The first her family knew that she was dead was when the suicide clinic mailed the family her ashes.

Will is a very smart man. How does he circumvent the abundant evidence that once unloosened, the physician-assisted suicide horseman will never cease looking for new victims? Especially so in light of the aforementioned column he wrote on the undercover PPFA videos?

Today’s culture of casual death (see the Planned Parenthood videos) should deepen worries about a slippery slope from physician-assisted dying to a further diminution of life’s sanctity. Life, however, is inevitably lived on multiple slippery slopes: Taxation could become confiscation, police could become instruments of oppression, public education could become indoctrination, etc. Everywhere and always, civilization depends on the drawing of intelligent distinctions.

Will likens the race to “assist” more and more people to die to the possibility that our taxes could become confiscatory. Why? So he can tell us “Everywhere and always, civilization depends on the drawing of intelligent distinctions.”

But those are not “distinctions,” intelligent or otherwise. They are altogether different categories, apples and oranges.

“Multiple slippery slopes”? Please.

But there is a larger conclusion to be drawn. People, like Will, who are both very smart and very articulate and who often come down on the correct side of moral and ethical issues can nonetheless be seduced by the allure of “autonomy” and then slide, as Will does, into a discussion of the percentage of Medicare expenditures that are made in patients’ last six months of life. Airy principles meets Green eyeshade economics.

Will received something like 5,000 responses on the Washington Post webpage to his column on Planned Parenthood. I hope he gets as least as many for “Affirming a right to die with dignity.”