With the same party that had an MP who wanted the government to pay welfare recipients to get sterilised positioning itself as a self-styled assisted-suicide party with plans underway for introducing an ‘assisted dying’ bill, assisted suicide is back in the news again, which will result in an almost daily slew of really bad arguments being invoked by activists who want a law change that will legally allow doctors to terminate the lives of their patients with lethal injections upon request.
Here are seven pro assisted-suicide arguments being thrown around at the moment, and seven responses which challenge the validity of the approach they take to this life and death issue.
1. ‘People just want the right to die’
Firstly, it’s not actually the right to die that supporters of euthanasia are asking for – all of us already have the legal right to refuse burdensome or extraordinary treatments that would prevent us from dying by unnecessarily prolonging our lives.
What those who use this argument really mean is that people are being denied the ‘right to commit suicide’.
But there is no such thing as a human right to suicide.
If there was, then youth suicide would not be the horrific tragedy that society rightly knows it to be, instead it would merely be an act where a young person was exercising their basic human rights.
And if suicide truly was a human right, then legalised euthanasia supporters would be trying to deny a fundamental human right to the majority of the population by legalising euthanasia but then restricting access to assisted-suicide only to the sick, elderly or disabled.
If suicide, when you believe that your life no longer has dignity or value, is a fundamental human right (as supporters of assisted-suicide claim it to be), then EVERYONE (teenagers, healthy people, children, etc.) would be entitled to exercise that ‘human right’, not just sick, elderly or disabled persons.
2. ‘We put sick animals out of their misery’
Yes, and we also make them sleep outside, live in cages, and we don’t let them vote, drive cars, or get married. We also regularly sterilise them without consent, and most of us eat them as one of our primary food sources.
Animals are NOT human persons, and so comparing the way we treat animals who are sick with the way we care for human beings who are sick is a completely illogical thing to do… unless of course you are suggesting that we should treat human beings no better than we treat animals – by terminating them with lethal injections when they are sick, instead of showing human care and compassion for them.
3. ‘Assisted-suicide is not actually suicide’
Yes, this is a terribly absurd position to adopt, but you’d be amazed at how many intelligent people are now trying to suggest that killing yourself is not actually killing yourself if you have lost the will to live and are sick, elderly or disabled.
One particularly bizarre argument doing the rounds of late tries to suggest that assisted-suicide is not actually suicide because “a death that is already in process, should not be classified as suicide.”
Those pushing this particular ideology clearly haven’t bothered to stop and consider the fact that EVERY human being is in a process of dying from the moment they are first conceived – and this would mean that no suicide should ever really be considered a suicide, because, after all, the death of the person who has died was already in process before they took their own life.
What makes something as an act of suicide is not someone’s health status or longterm prognosis prior to their death, but whether or not that person has deliberately ended their own life.
If a person takes their own life, that’s a suicide.
If a person is assisted in taking their own life, that’s an assisted-suicide.
Trying to suggest otherwise is just dishonest and nonsensical.
4. ‘Legalising assisted-suicide won’t lead to bad outcomes’
Try telling that to Professor Theo Boer, a PRO-euthanasia ethicist, who, just last July, told the UK parliament that he was “terribly wrong to have formerly believed that regulated euthanasia would work”, before warning them NOT to legalise assisted-suicide because it had got out of hand in his home country of the Netherlands.
He stated that euthanasia in the Netherlands had been extended to include the killing of the “demented” and the depressed, and that mobile death units of traveling euthanasia doctors were now operating there as well.
There is now a large and growing body of research, and well documented incidents (from the minority of places where assisted-suicide is currently legal) which show that there are a lot of bad outcomes now resulting from legalised assisted-suicide – these range from large numbers of patients being killed without explicitly requesting euthanasia, to people committing suicide who are physically healthy, to children now being legally allowed to take their own lives via assisted-suicide.
Anyone who claims that legalising euthanasia won’t lead to bad outcomes is either ignorant of the true facts about legalising euthanasia, or they are not being fully honest about these facts because they know that they paint a VERY frightening picture about what happens when a society embraces assisted-suicide.
5. ‘Euthanasia is simply assisted dying’
No, no it is not.
Someone who is given adequate care, pain management and the support they need to put their final affairs in order, etc, is someone who is being assisted in their dying.
Euthanasia involves assisting someone to commit suicide, so it is not assisted dying (the thing which happens when nature takes it’s course), instead it is assisted-suicide (the thing which happens when someone is prematurely killed before they have a chance to die).
6. ‘Assisted-suicide is death with dignity’
This is only true if you believe that killing yourself, or having someone deliberately end your life with a lethal injection is a dignified act.
This argument is also extremely troubling when you stop and consider that it implies that people who don’t kill themselves when they are sick, elderly or disabled are somehow dying in an undignified way.
The simple truth is that the majority do not consider suicide to be a courageous and life-giving act.
Instead they know that it is something tragic that happens when someone has been so overcome by the circumstances of their personal situation that a loss of hope has resulted, which leads to the inability to see the good still present in their life (even when they are up against it) and their inherent value as a member of the human community (despite their current struggles).
Calling suicide an act of dignity sends all the wrong messages to society, especially young people and those experiencing depression, as it not only normalises suicide, but it actually glamourises it by declaring that people who lose the will to live are engaging in something extremely good when they commit suicide (or ask someone else to kill them).
7. ‘The current law denies people the right to choose’
This is simply not true.
Currently, a dying person is not forced to go on living unnecessarily – they are legally entitled to refuse extraordinary treatments that might unnecessarily prolong their life and prevent nature from taking it’s course.
What the current law does do, is protect the vulnerable from the risks that would inevitably arise if assisting people in their suicides was to start happening as standard accepted procedure within the healthcare sector.
This is similar to our current drink-driving laws, which do not allow people to choose to drink unlimited (or even large) amounts of alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a car. There is no doubting that this might seem unfair to people who have a higher tolerance for alcohol, but then the law wasn’t created to protect their choices, instead it is intended to protect wider society from the harms that would result if legal alcohol tolerances were loosened or totally removed for drivers.
The law rightly recognises that not every choice a person might want to make is a good thing for society to legally allow them to make.
In this case, a person might desperately want to commit suicide by having someone give them a lethal injection that will kill them, but their intense desire to do such a thing has to be balanced against the outcomes, especially for the vulnerable, of legalising the act of assisted-suicide.
Just because you might want to choose to do something, it does not automatically mean that the legal system should give you the power to make that choice. There are countless examples, many of them trivial, where this applies, and yet none of us have any major issue with such restrictions being placed on us.
Perhaps this is because, when it comes to the issue of assisted-suicide, it is far too easy to allow the fog of fear (about dying and illness) to cloud our judgment and allow us to lose sight of the fact that some personal choices also have serious consequences for the wider community as well.
This fog of fear is made even harder to see though when activists attempt to sway the outcome in their favour by thrusting highly emotive one-off cases at us while demanding that this issue be resolved as quickly as possible.
Regardless of how you feel about the morality of assisted-suicide, I think that most of us can agree that good legal outcomes never result by trying to rush that outcome without a proper and diligent consideration of ALL the factors involved – especially when we are talking about something as serious as allowing doctors to terminate the lives of their patients with lethal injections.
If you think you, or someone you know, may be thinking about suicide, call 0508 828 865 for NZ support.