By Wesley J. Smith
The media often write about assisted suicide as if the only opponents are pro-lifers, religious conservatives, and the Catholic Church.
But that is, as the old saying goes, fake news. Some of the most vociferous and effective opponents of legalizing suicide by doctor are members of the disability rights community, organizations such as Not Dead Yet. Disability rights activists, generally stated, are secular in their approach, not pro-life about abortion, and politically liberal.
People with disabilities see themselves targeted by the euthanasia movement, and indeed, note that that the reasons given for permitting terminally ill people to access lethal prescriptions — a limitation on access that is not shared in most other jurisdictions where euthanasia/assisted suicide are legal — deal with issues that people with disabilities face in their everyday lives. The idea — their fear — is that society is coming to accept the noxious idea that life with disabilities is not worth living.
Now, the National Council on Disability — an independent agency of the federal government — has issued a powerful report on the dangers to people with disabilities of legalizing assisted. It withers the mendacious and ubiquitous claims by proponents that “guidelines will protect against abuse.” From The Danger of Assisted Suicide Laws:
Assisted suicide laws contain provisions intended to safeguard patients from problems or abuse. However, research for this report showed that these provisions are ineffective, and often fail to protect patients in a variety of ways, including:
- Insurers have denied expensive, life- sustaining medical treatment but offered to subsidize lethal drugs, potentially leading patients toward hastening their own deaths.
- Misdiagnoses of terminal disease can also cause frightened patients to hasten their deaths.
- People with the disability of depression are subject to harm where assisted suicide is legal.
- Demoralization in people with disabilities is often based on internalized oppression, such as being conditioned to regard help as undignified and burdensome, or to regard disability as an inherent impediment to quality of life. Demoralization can also result from the lack of options that people depend on. These problems can lead patients toward hastening their deaths— and doctors who conflate disability with terminal illness or poor quality of life are ready to help them. Moreover, most health professionals lack training and experience in working with people with disabilities, so they don’t know how to recognize and intervene in this type of demoralization.
- Financial and emotional pressures can distort patient choice.
- Assisted suicide laws apply the lowest culpability standard possible to doctors, medical staff, and all other involved parties, that of a good- faith belief that the law is being followed, which creates the potential for abuse.
There’s a lot more in the report that should be read and pondered by anyone who believes assisted suicide culture can exist without flaw, abuse, oppression, or deleterious cultural change.
Bottom line: If you accept the idea that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering, the “suffering” that justifies killing will continually expand and/or result in hastened death becoming the preferred means of dying. If you doubt me, witness the blatant cheerleading for the death agenda by an in-the-assisted-suicide-tank media, including glowing reports about “suicide going away parties.”
Those with eyes to see, let them see.
Editor’s note. Wesley’s columns appear at National Review Online and are reposted with his permission.