By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
While reading an article published by the Cal-Alumni Association that was promoting the expansion of the California assisted suicide law, I wondered: Why (and how) does the death lobby get away with promoting suicide?
The article focused on stories of people who died by suicide / assisted suicide. I was shocked by the descriptions of and lionizing of their deaths.
I regularly read articles about euthanasia and assisted suicide. What makes this story different was that I felt it clearly not only promoted the expansion of assisted suicide but was also irresponsible in how it described the deaths and how it applauded those who died.
The World Health Organization published a resource for media professionals with protocols for responsible reporting of suicide deaths to prevent suicide and “suicide contagion.” The quick reference in the WHO media guidelines for preventing suicide states:
- Take the opportunity to educate the public about suicide,
- Avoid language which sensationalizes or normalizes suicide, or presents it as a solution to problems,
- Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide,
- Avoid explicit description of the method used in a completed or attempted suicide,
- Avoid providing detailed information about the site of a completed or attempted suicide,
- Word headlines carefully,
- Exercise caution in using photographs or video footage,
- Take particular care in reporting celebrity suicides,
- Show due consideration for people bereaved by suicide,
- Provide information about where to seek help,
- Recognize that media professionals themselves may be affected by stories about suicide
Clearly a story describing how Debra and Lillian ended their lives with clear descriptions of the methods they used to die not only normalizes assisted suicide but will also lead to more suicide– the suicide contagion effect.
The data shows that where euthanasia or assisted suicide has been legalized, the suicide rates increase.
Further , the story promotes the radical assisted suicide group, the Final Exit Network which assisted Lillian’s suicide. The article states:
Lillian was not ill, at least not terminally, but she was old. She had lived a full and creative life, but was no longer the person she used to be, or wanted to be, or wanted her friends and family to see. She was certain about that.
“Death, Life, and The Right to Draw Your Own Line” is only one of many irresponsible articles that appear to be promoting assisted suicide or the expansion of these laws while in fact they are promoting suicide–whether they are assisted or not–and denigrating the life of people with disabilities or the elderly.
I believe in a society that upholds the value of living with disabilities, respecting the lives and experience of elderly people, and upholding the equality of every human being.
Suicide promotion articles and the philosophy of the Final Exit Network is oriented towards abandoning people to death.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.