by Ryan T. Anderson
In recent months, heartbreaking stories of Americans such as Brittany Maynard struggling with devastating diagnoses have captured our empathy—and launched a national conversation about physician-assisted suicide (PAS). In response, activists are using these stories to advance legislation that has otherwise been rejected by the people.
At least 18 states across the country are considering whether to allow physician-assisted suicide. But legalizing physician-assisted suicide would be a grave mistake.
The merciful thing would be to expect doctors to do no harm and ease the pain of those who suffer and support families and ministries in providing that care.
Indeed, that was the message of Senator Ted Kennedy’s widow as she campaigned against physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts in 2012. Victoria Reggie Kennedy pointed out that most people wish for a good death “surrounded by loved ones, perhaps with a doctor and/or clergyman at our bedside.” But with physician-assisted suicide, “what you get instead is a prescription for up to 100 capsules, dispensed by a pharmacist, taken without medical supervision, followed by death, perhaps alone. That seems harsh and extreme to me.”
Indeed it is.
The Hippocratic Oath proclaims: “I will keep [the sick] from harm and injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.” This is an essential precept for a flourishing civil society. No one, especially a doctor, should be permitted to kill intentionally, or assist in killing intentionally, an innocent neighbor.
Human life doesn’t need to be extended by every medical means possible, but a person should never be intentionally killed. Doctors may help their patients to die a dignified death from natural causes, but they should not kill their patients or help them to kill themselves. This is the reality that such euphemisms as “death with dignity” and “aid in dying” seek to conceal.
Legalizing physician-assisted suicide, however, would be a grave mistake, as explained in a new Heritage Foundation report. It would:
Endanger the weak and vulnerable,
Corrupt the practice of medicine and the doctor–patient relationship,
Compromise the family and the relationships between family generations and
Betray human dignity and equality before the law.
To understand the problems with physician-assisted, one must understand what it entails and where it leads.