Assisted suicide is a heartrending failure of society because it silently teaches that some lives are worth more than others. Assisted suicide violates human dignity at its deepest level because it advances the concept of a “final solution” that “relieves” society of its duty to provide compassionate care to vulnerable citizens.
Assisted suicide laws are woefully inadequate to address the needs of the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, the disabled, and those with limited financial resources. For example — after assisted-suicide laws were passed, some insurance providers cover far-cheaper assisted-suicide drugs, while declining coverage for more-expensive treatments — even for patients who want to live.
Research shows that most people who seek assisted suicide are not doing so because of pain or fear of pain. In reality, they fear being a burden to their loved ones. Family Policy Alliance supports policies that promotes life. We particularly support policies that establish and increase holistic palliative care for those at the end of life. We also promote legislation that ensures patients have fast track access to experimental drug treatments.
ASSISTED SUICIDE LAWS EXPLAINED
Assisted suicide laws give doctors the legal right to prescribe life-ending drugs to patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and request help to end their life. Deceptively named by proponents as Death with Dignity, End of Life Options, or Compassionate Care, assisted suicide is anything but dignified or compassionate, and leaves the patient few options.
In America, lethal pills are prescribed by a physician requiring the patient to take them on their own, which is why it is called physician-assisted suicide. Alternatively, in Europe the term euthanasia is used as the physician directly administers life-ending drugs into the patient.
Oregon was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide in 1997. Maine and New Jersey were the most recent states to legalize assisted suicide in 2019, bringing the total number of states that allow the practice to nine. In those nine states, the assisted suicide laws are very similar. Most of the laws:
In the past few years, 10 state legislatures have considered laws that would legalize assisted suicide. Despite those efforts, today, 39 states have laws expressly prohibiting assisted suicide, and more than half have defeated legislation attempting to legalize it. Even the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no inherent constitutional right to assisted suicide in our nation, as the practice is offensive to our national traditions and practices.
ASSISTED SUICIDE REMAINS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE IN 41 STATES
1 Life expectancy is always an estimate. There are many cases of a patient living beyond the speculated date.
2 The cause of death is listed as the underlying illness, rather than assisted suicide.
HOW WE ARE FIGHTING FOR LIFE
During the 2019 legislative session.
Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico, alongside a coalition of churches and pro-life groups, put in a herculean effort to defeat assisted suicide legislation. We also worked with state allies in Maryland to defeat assisted suicide. Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey has been engaged in the battle to defeat legalization for years, yet unfortunately New Jersey became one of the more recent states to legalize assisted suicide in 2019.
We’ll continue to work in New Jersey and other states with legalized assisted suicide to shed light on the harms of the practice and increase regulation of the assisted suicide process. We will also continue to promote better options than suicide, such as expanding palliative care and access to experimental drugs, in all states — including states that have already chosen to legalize assisted suicide.
God Made You
Is it Biblical to take one’s own life?
We understand from Scripture—specifically the sixth Commandment—that “you shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). Suicide by definition is self-murder. Having someone assist you in taking your own life then, is to cause them to be complicit in your murder.
But is there evidence in God’s Word where assisted suicide is specifically prohibited? There is!
In Second Samuel 1:1-16, we read of the death of King Saul. King Saul was engaged in a losing battle and was found by a young Amalekite leaning on his own spear. With the enemy fast approaching, Saul feared the additional torture they would bring. Seeing the young man, Saul called out, “stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers” (v. 9). The young man complied, then took Saul’s crown and his armlet and brought them to David.
David, now king, upon hearing the testimony from the Amalekite himself as to how Saul perished, had the young man killed for David said, “your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed’” (2. Sam.1:16).
David had the young man put to death for assisting in the suicide of Saul.
Isn’t assisting in the suicide of someone when there is no hope and they are in severe pain humane?
The culture might want us to believe that but biblically, it is not. Notice in verse 10, that the Amalekite says he killed Saul “because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen.” And Saul himself confirms that he was in “anguish” which literally means, excruciating or acute distress, suffering, or pain. David hears this and yet pronounces death for the Amalekite as a result of his actions.
This position is challenging in the face of mounting pressure to end life because of individual liberty or severe pain or because resources are limited and even now, because humans are said to be the primary cause of climate change.
Despite these cries from the culture, Family Policy Alliance promotes policy that protects life from conception to natural death and opposes any laws that look to demean the dignity of human beings.
THE IMPACT OF LEGALIZING DEATH
A DOCTOR SHARES WHY ASSISTED SUICIDE VIOLATES “FIRST, DO NO HARM”
1Opinion 5.7 Physician-Assisted Suicide. American Medical Association. Code of Medical Ethics https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/ethics/physician-assisted-suicide
2See e.g. https://www.centura.org/locations/penrose-st-francis-health-services/about
4This rule applies to Medicaid and Medicare providers, hospitals, nursing facilities, home health or personal care service providers, hospice programs, Medicaid managed care, health maintenance organizations,Medicare+Choice/Advantage org’s and prepaid org’s.
Legalizing assisted suicide represents a failure of care and compassion for those who are facing the end of life. Certainly, we can do better than abandoning them to death, hopelessness, and laws that allow them to be taken advantage of. They are worth fighting for.
PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE
When a society, which is supposed to protect the vulnerable, begins to advocate for their death, that must be a wake-up call for us to see assisted suicide for its truly dark, treacherous nature.
The majority of people requesting assisted suicide are doing so not because of pain, but for fear of being a burden to loved ones through increasing disability and loss of autonomy.1 Sadly, assisted-suicide proponents ultimately use that fear to legalize a pathway for people to end their lives. Yet, disability-rights advocates have spent decades teaching and raising awareness that loss of autonomy is not undignified or to be feared as a type of “living death.” They have demonstrated that every life is valuable and priceless — every life is worth fighting for.
MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS
Recently, some European countries that have legalized euthanasia have been providing lethal injections to people with no physical terminal illness at all, but to people with schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, dementia, and depression. These people were not dying. They were simply given a “final solution” to their severe psychological struggles. There’s a word for this type of “treatment” — murder. Assisted suicide is an irreversible and unacceptable solution to problems that can be treated with comprehensive mental health care.
In 2014, Belgium expanded its euthanasia laws to include children of any age. Since that time, at least three children have died after receiving lethal injections at the “child’s request.” The Netherlands allows assisted suicide for children over 12.2 And Canadian hospitals have begun to advocate for children to have the right to choose whether or not they want to end their own lives,3 without parental consent or even parental notification. Learn more about Parental Rights
Family Policy Alliance supports increased access to palliative care, in-home support options, and access to experimental and mental health treatment.
LACK OF ASSISTED SAFEGUARDS IN SUICIDE LAWS
Proponents of assisted suicide offer four “safeguards” to protect vulnerable patients.
Yet, none of these “safeguards” provides real protection.
The patient must request the lethal drugs in writing from a physician.
The requirement to request the drugs from a physician simply leads to “physician shopping” to find a doctor who is willing to sign off on the request if the patient’s own doctor — who is likely more familiar with the patient, the patient’s condition, and the patient’s mental state — declines for professional or moral reasons.
The request must be voluntary.
The “voluntary written request” requires a signature by the patient and often must be witnessed by two people, one of whom can be a financial heir. In America, if a witness to the signing of a will is an heir, there is a legal presumption of possible coercion and fraud. Yet, if an heir is a witness to a signature for suicide drugs, there is no such presumption, leaving very ill patients vulnerable to coercion and abuse by heirs.
The patient must be terminally ill, with a prognosis of six months or less to live.
The law requiring patients only have six months to live is also not a sufficient safeguard because physicians simply cannot predict how much time an individual patient has left to live. Such prognoses are never based upon the individual patient’s condition and are notoriously unreliable and inaccurate.1
The patient must self-administer the drugs.
Once a patient picks up their prescription from the pharmacy, there is no follow-up or oversight as to what happens to the lethal medication. There is no real way of knowing whether the patient took it of their own free will, how the patient took it, or whether the lethal dose was safely disposed of if the patient did not take it.
Family Policy Alliance has even seen a shift to make these so-called “protections” even weaker. In early 2019, New Mexico proposed legislation that did not require that a patient request their doctor discuss suicide drugs with them. This means that the doctor could suggest the patient consider the drugs herself, without the patient ever having raised the topic voluntarily first. The legislation didn’t even require a physician to prescribe the drugs but would have allowed nurses and physician assistants to do so. Finally, it also did not require a six-month approximate prognosis, but only that death would result in the ambiguous “foreseeable future.”
WATCH ELIZABETH’S STORY OF FACING A TERMINAL PROGNOSIS.
1 E.B. Lamont et al., “Some elements of prognosis in terminal cancer,” Oncology (Huntington), Vol. 9, August 13, 1999, pp. 1165-70; M. Maltoni, et al., “Clinical prediction of survival is more accurate than the Karnofsky performance status in estimating lifespan of terminally-ill cancer patients,” European Journal of Cancer, Vol. 30A, Num. 6, 1994, pp. 764-6; N.A. Christakis and T.J. Iwashyna, “Attitude and Self-Reported Practice Regarding Prognostication in a National Sample of Internists,” Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 158, Num. 21 November 23, 1998, pp. 2389-95; J. Lynn et al., “Prognoses of seriously ill hospitalized patients on the days before death: implications for patient care and public policy,” New Horizons, Vol. 5, Num. 1, February 1997, pp. 56-61. Also: “17 percent of patients [outlived their prognosis] in the Christakis study. This roughly coincides with data collected by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which in 2007 showed that 13 percent of hospice patients around the country outlived their six-month prognoses. … When a group of researchers looked specifically at patients with three chronic conditions—pulmonary disease, heart failure, and severe liver disease—they found that many more people outlived their prognosis than in the Christakis study. Fully 70 percent of the 900 patients eligible for hospice care lived longer than six months, according to a 1999 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.” See Nina Shapiro, “Terminal Uncertainty,” Seattle Weekly, January 14, 2009, available at http://www.seattleweekly.com/content/printVersion/553991/ (accessed July 13, 2009)
What's Happening in Assisted Suicide
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