DOCTOR ASSISTED SUICIDE
This article will be difficult to read, not from the ability to understand it, but from the perspective of being heart-wrenching as we try to wrap our heads around the issue of suicide in the realm of “medical choices”. As was projected during the fight to protect the unborn child from death in the womb, the next frontier to which the sanctity of life will be threatened is doctor-assisted suicide.
It is hard to believe but doctor-prescribed suicide is already legal in 9 states, and it is coming to the legislature of RI in January. Yes, a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide is planned to be introduced in RI this month. While it may seem that we aren’t well informed enough about it to make an informed opinion, the proponents of this are well prepared; they’ve already succeeded 9 times despite opposition from many.
There are many respected professional organizations that oppose this “choice”. To name just a few are medical associations such as American Medical Association (AMA) and National Hospice & Palliative Care; many disability organizations such as American Association of People with Disabilities and Not Dead Yet; Advocacy Organizations such as Family Research Council, Patients’ Rights Council; religious organizations such as Focus on the Family, Knights of Columbus, and US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Groups whose mission is to promote Doctor–Prescribed Suicide have names like Compassion and Choices, Death with Dignity and Final Exit Network. These groups seek to make this type of suicide legal in every state, normalize the use of lethal drugs as part of medical practice, and eventually expand its use beyond terminal illness.
Suicide rates in the general public have been shown to increase in states that legalize doctor-prescribed Suicide. In Oregon, where it has been legal since 1997, suicides in the general public are now more than 40% higher than the national average. The promotion of suicide for the terminally ill could have the unintended consequence of increasing suicides in other groups, which are already alarming in the vulnerable teen and veteran populations, as well as people with psychiatric disabilities who may struggle with suicidal thoughts.
In 2019 a Bill was proposed in Oregon that would be to expand the practice by expanding the definition of terminal illness to make more patients eligible for lethal drugs. Also being proposed in the bill would be to reduce the waiting period in order to receive the prescription on the same day. In 2019 a bill was proposed in New Mexico that allowed non-physicians to diagnose and prescribe deadly drugs. There are many good secular reasons identified to oppose Doctor-Prescribed Suicide such as, no requirement to screen for depression; no disclosure required to family members; some terminally ill patients live much longer than expected. There can also be coercion from family members to hasten a loved one’s death at times for economic reasons. Not everyone comes from a loving family.
Doctors are usually viewed by the public as trusted healers. We are all familiar with the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. Many physicians are against this “choice”. From the health insurance side, there are already instances of insurance denials for medical treatment, yet approval for lethal drugs, despite there being no request for these drugs.
HOWEVER, there is another perspective to all this craziness. To us who believe in the Almighty, who identify as members of the body of Jesus Christ, we look at the world from a different perspective, a Godly perspective. We answer to a different leader other than SELF, and MY choice. We are in direct relation to God from the moment of creation; In Genesis, we read, “God created man in his own image; male and female he created them.” If God created us in His image, how are we to destroy something so precious, even if it is no longer precious in the eyes of the world. Through Moses, God gave us the commandment: “Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.” God calls us to Him and to love all others, including ourselves, while we still have breath. God keeps his promises and does not abandon us during times of trial, as he tells us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He ends all doubt about ending a life when he commands, “Thou shalt not murder.”
John Stott, a theologian, aptly wrote, “The good gifts of the Creator are spoiled by human selfishness. The rights God gave to all human beings equally, easily degenerate into “my rights” on which I insist, irrespective of the rights of others or of the common good. So the history of the world has been the story of the conflict between my rights and yours; between the good of each and the good of all, between the individual and the community.”
“May we honor one another and seek the common good as we promote the right to life, the dignity and the freedom of every person, from conception to natural death” CPB p. 219). These are our unalienable rights as humans, and where do our freedoms come from? Yes, they come from God, the God of our salvation.
Deacon Deb Adams