By Emma Tiner
Editor’s note. This appeared on the webpage of New York State Right to Life, NRLC’ s state affiliate.
Earlier this month I attended the second of Albany Law School’s series on end-of-life issues. Unsurprisingly, but still frighteningly, it wasn’t so much about end-of-life as it was about ending life. This event, described as “‘Death with Dignity’ and the Role of Medical Professionals,” revealed some new insights about the tactics of the pro-assisted suicide movement.
Despite being advertised as “an examination of legal and medical perspectives,” only one side of the debate was represented. The speakers were David Leven, Esq., the director of “End of Life Choices New York” (the NY branch of Compassion and Choices, one of the off-shoots of the Hemlock Society) and Dr. Timothy Quill, Director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care, University of Rochester, and famously of Quill v. Vacco, who has not only been involved in the movement to promote assisted suicide, but has assisted many himself.
The only nod to the “other side” was when the moderator, Dean Alicia Ouellette of Albany Law, asked the two men what they thought the strongest opposing argument was. According to Leven, there isn’t one—it’s just ignorance. Ignorance and Catholicism, if you take Leven’s word for it. However, despite this mere ignorance, I guess they didn’t feel comfortable having an opposing perspective presented at the same time as their own?
They focused on the lawsuit currently on appeal, and the various legislation that they’re trying to push through the New York Senate and the Assembly this session. In particular, Republican Senator Bonacic’s support of assisted suicide (and his sponsorship of a bill) is a proud selling point for the pro-death movement. They even had a petition at the door to support passing “aid in dying” laws.
Although they used a lot of persuasive language about compassion and choice, Quill and Leven’s conflicting logic was clear when they advocated the “need” to pass assisted suicide laws to protect doctors who are currently prescribing lethal doses against the law—yet at the same time stated that those with disabilities would be safer if the laws were passed, since they wouldn’t be taken advantage of so easily. They tried to portray “hero” doctors who nonetheless pose a substantial risk to disability communities.
Also, despite Leven’s insistence that the purpose is compassion, choice, and nothing more–no secret agenda, no other motivation but respecting the autonomy of the terminally ill–he followed up his Albany Law presentation with a presentation the next day at the Sierra Club, discussing issues of population. If all his interest in death is to support individual autonomy, what relevance does that have to population “issues” allegedly affecting the environment?
These men are willing to go to whatever lengths are needed to end life sooner. At the close of the discussion, they said that if they can’t pass assisted suicide laws (which they prefer to call “aid in dying”, to avoid the “negative” repercussions of the suicide label), they’ll turn to other tactics such as palliative sedation, “voluntary” refusal of food and water, and they even went so far as to encourage people to indicate their desire for assisted suicide on advance directives, although it is against the law.
They promised that it won’t be a slippery slope to euthanasia—but when I asked how they would it keep from becoming so, they merely said that this was where they’d decided to draw the line. They even compared it to abortion, stating that abortion was limited by clear regulation.
We know well enough that what we have is abortion on demand. If Quill and Leven get their way, death will be on demand at the other end of life as well.