Abortion has been the topic of discussion over the last couple of months. From New York’s radical pro-abortion legislation to the statements made by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in support of infanticide, abortion has been the focus of the media and state legislators across the country. However, there is another life issue that has gotten little attention but has seen a growth of support: assisted suicide.
In 2019, two states have proposed or have considered proposing bills that would legalize assisted suicide, New Mexico and Maryland. While New Mexico’s hasn’t seen a bill introduced in the legislature yet, Maryland’s bill was recently approved by a vote in the House and will soon be voted on in the Senate. If it becomes law, Maryland would become the eighth state to adopt such a measure. It is a dangerous precedent.
Assisted suicide was first legalized in Oregon in 1994, but due to a lawsuit the law didn’t go into effect until three years later. Since then, support for assisted suicide has spread and now California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Vermont and Washington have all legalized the practice.
Organizations like Dying with Dignity try to portray physician-assisted suicide as giving someone with a terminal illness the ability to exit the world with “grace” and “control,” but in actuality it promotes a culture of death that portrays suicide under the direction of a physician as preferable to life.
Brittany Maynard, a young woman from California, was one of the most prominent advocates for physician-assisted suicide. Diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, Brittany advocated for assisted suicide in California, and made the move to Oregon where she was able to eventually end her life with lethal drugs prescribed by doctors. Her story made headlines around the country, but the portrayal of the end of her life and the possible progression of her illness were also deeply flawed.
While Brittany’s cancer diagnosis was terminal, at the time of her death she had lived beyond doctors’ initial expectations. And despite the realities of her diagnosis, Brittany was still rather healthy when she ended her life six-months after she started her campaign. But Brittany couldn’t change her mind. Once she made her assisted suicide crusade public, she could no longer back out if the progression of her illness wasn’t as severe as she was initially told by her doctors. Her public stand and advocacy for physician-assisted suicide meant, as terrible as it sounds, that she had to die.
That’s why physician-assisted suicide is so dangerous. It promotes this idea that someone ending their life is somehow preferable or more dignified than living it.
For some people in the midst of a terminal illness, without the support of family and community, it is a tempting proposition. Their vulnerability during a health crisis might make assisted suicide seem like it is somehow the easier option. In certain situations, medical insurance companies have been known to prefer life-ending drugs over potentially life-saving or experimental drugs. As a consequence, some now see death as a medical treatment.
Unfortunately, the push towards assisted suicide shows no signs of ending. It seems likely that the measure will pass the Democratic-controlled Senate in Maryland. Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, is likely to veto the legislation but the forward press of physician-assisted suicide will likely continue into the future.
New Mexico’s legislature passed an assisted suicide bill in 2017, but it was unable to gain a signature from the previous governor. But that is not the case this year. The new governor, elected in 2018, has stated her willingness to sign a similar bill. The original New Mexico law was especially concerning since it would allow out-of-state patients to get lethal prescriptions without establishing residency.
That law would have basically legalized physician-assisted suicide throughout the country by making New Mexico a magnet for suicide tourism.
Death is a natural part of life, but it should not be fast-tracked under the guise of medical treatment or to alleviate suffering. Instead, medical researchers and professionals should focus on long-term management of terminal diseases with the hope of finding a cure. Also, the answer to suffering isn’t death, instead it is the ability of others to come alongside a person battling a terminal illness and offer support, encouragement and love.