By Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life
Editor’s note. Wesley J. Smith will speak at the National Right to Life Convention at 9am on Saturday morning, June 26. The title of his session is “There’s No Such Thing as ‘Just a Little’ Euthanasia. ”Please go to nrlconvention.com for information about registering for the two-day convention that begins June 25.
In many ways, the argument against euthanasia and assisted suicide is a more difficult pro-life argument to make than the argument against abortion, says Wesley J. Smith, J.D., a prominent pro-life medical ethicist who documents in books, articles, and speeches the growing threat in the United States and worldwide, but equally important to make.
With abortion, he says, the target of killing is an unborn human being, and those who support abortion know it. “People know the unborn child is a human life,” he says. “They don’t care.”
With euthanasia and assisted suicide, however, “Society has shifted from protecting innocent life to eliminating suffering,” Smith told NRL News Today. “And when eliminating suffering become your highest good, that easily becomes eliminating the sufferer.”
Mr. Smith grew up in Alhambra, California, a bedroom community of Pasadena. He dabbled in acting and settled on a career as a lawyer. His flair for colorful writing landed him the law firm’s job of writing briefs that were interesting and not dry.
But his life changed when he was confronted with the death of a friend who was influenced by the Hemlock Society to commit suicide with pills and a plastic bag over her head.
“I was so upset by this I wrote a piece in Newsweek magazine called ‘The Whispers of Strangers.’” He was “gob smacked” by the negative reaction.
“I wrote it thinking it was completely non-controversial, kind of an expose of this euthanasia movement that I really didn’t know that much about,” he recalls.
Of the 150 letters he received, 125 were “hate mail” from people who wished on him a slow, agonizing death. The notoriety, however, caught the attention of Rita Marker, founder of the International Anti-Euthanasia Newsletter now known as the Patients’ Rights Council. He offered to donate a percentage of his time to writing and speaking against the growing threat of euthanasia and assisted suicide and he authored , Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder, now in its third edition.
In documenting the global practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide, Mr. Smith wrote a shocking article in 2020 with the grim headline, “Dutch Doctors Can Now Drug Dementia Patients Before Killing Them.” In the article, he tells of a Dutch physician who first drugged her patient’s coffee before starting a lethal injection. The patient woke up and began fighting the effort to kill her.
At that point, Mr. Smith writes, “The doctor instructed the family to hold the resisting patient down while she finished her off.” Later, the Dutch Supreme Court “lauded the doctor for her good intentions and dismissed all criminal complaints.”
“The reaction of the Dutch government was to change the law to permit that which used to not be allowed.” Mr. Smith explains. “That’s how all this works.”
As euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide become more acceptable, people wrongly believe there are guidelines to protect against abuses. “Then, when a case comes up against the guideline, they [the government] changes the guidelines.”
Currently10 states and the District of Columbia permit doctor assisted suicide: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana*, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
However, there are effective ways, Smith says, to fight against the growing threat of eliminating devalued members of our human family. These include learning the issues, using the right language (never say aid in dying, say euthanasia or assisted suicide, depending on whether the physician directly administers the lethal dosage or makes it available to the person), not getting angry, and caring for people by, for example, volunteering for hospice.
“Even in small ways,” he says, “like if you’re walking with a friend and you see someone in a wheelchair and your friend says, ‘If I were that person, I would want to kill myself.’ That’s a special opportunity to defend that [disabled] person’s equal dignity and say ‘No! This is not the right way to think.’ And you begin the education process.”
The way people’s beliefs are formed, he says, is “not so much by Wesley giving a speech or writing an article, but by people talking over dinner or with friends at a barbecue after church. You have to be as loving as possible, but don’t yield. Do not compromise. There is no compromising on this issue.”
Smith conclude, “You are either in the euthanasia society or you’re not. A little euthanasia is euthanasia and a little euthanasia leads to broader euthanasia over time. It may be years, it may be decades, but you are leading to death on demand.”
*While the Montana Supreme Court found no public policy against assisted suicide the court did not officially legalize assisted suicide. If a physician was charged with assisting a suicide, they could use the patient’s consent as a defense.