California Jumps Off The Assisted Suicide Cliff

In 2010, advocacy billboards appeared without warning in San Francisco and New Jersey: “My Life. My Death. My Choice.” Paid for by the Final Exit Network (FEN), the promotional signs received widespread media coverage as a new wrinkle in the ongoing national campaign to legalize assisted suicide.

But there is much more to this story than controversial messaging on billboard. FEN doesn’t just advocate assisted suicide: Its “counselors” make deadly house calls. Indeed, FEN two FEN members have pleaded guilty (in the Arizona case involving the suicide of a mentally ill woman), and this year, FEN itself was fined $30,000 for its participation in a suicide.

FEN-style moral outlawry is nothing new, of course. In the 1990s, the late Jack Kevorkian plowed this particular field until convicted of second-degree murder. (Proving that crime pays: Kevorkian has retired from his deadly avocation and receives $50,000 per speech, as he basked in the warm light of a sympathetic biopic starring AL Pacino. Kevorkian’s Australian counterpart, physician Philip Nitschke, still travels the world teaching people how-to-commit suicide as he attempts to tout a suicide concoction called “the peaceful pill,” which he opined in a National Review Online interview, should be made available to anyone who wants to die, including “troubled teens.”

As outrageous as the FEN, Kevorkian, and Nitschke are, they do not pose the primary threat. In the last ten years, a new class of advocates has emerged pursuing a “professional” approach to assisted suicide promotion. Epitomized by the euphemistically named Compassion and Choices and funded in the millions annually by the likes of George Soros, well off and well tailored elites promote a so-called “medical model” for legalized “aid in dying” in meetings with medical and legal associations, in articles published in professional journals, and ubiquitously to the media.

This advocacy reached hurricane strength with the assisted suicide last year of Brittany Maynard, whose youth and beauty made her the poster woman for the movement, nearly every glowing story about her deciding to die “on her own terms” accompanied by a photo of her smiling brightly as she hugged a puppy.

Alas, the Brittany Maynard campaign worked in California, where the state legislature just legalized assisted suicide in a state in which resides about ten percent of the entire country. Expect the suicide pushers of Compassion and Choices, and their media camp followers, to try and leverage that success into greater advocacy around the country.

This is a catastrophe of known and unknown dimensions.

  • People will die sooner than they would have — and indeed, some may die when they would have lived.
  • Healthcare will be affected, given that assisted suicide is a splendid method of cost containment.
  • Families will feel pressured to sanction their loved ones’ suicides.
  • People with serious health issues and disabilities will be seen as having less intrinsic value than those who will receive suicide prevention instead of facilitation.
  • A recent study found that states that legalized assisted suicide saw an increase in suicides overall.

Worse, a brief review of the jurisdictions where euthanasia and assisted suicide are allowed illustrate the truth that legalizing euthanasia eventually leads to a radical license to end the lives of the suffering:

The Netherlands: The Netherlands has allowed euthanasia and assisted suicide by doctors since 1973, formally legalizing mercy killing by doctors in 2002. In that time, despite the supposed guidelines to protect against abuse, Dutch doctors have euthanized the terminally ill who ask for it, the chronically ill who ask for it, people with disabilities who ask for it, and the deeply depressed who ask for it—the latter explicitly approved by the Dutch Supreme Court in a case involving the assisted suicide by a psychiatrist of a mother who wanted to die out of grief for her two dead children.

But it gets worse: According to several Dutch government and other studies, death doctors also commit some 800-900 non-voluntary euthanasia killings—called “termination without request or consent” in Dutch euthanasia parlance—as well as the infanticide of babies born with disabling or terminal conditions.

Even though non-voluntary euthanasia and infanticide remain murder under Dutch law, it is rarely prosecuted, and even when it is, doctors face no meaningful punishment.

More recently, psychiatrists have entered the field, killing 46 mentally ill patients in 2013, described as a “liberation” both for patients and psychiatrists in a psychiatric journal.

Belgium: Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002, and fell off the same moral cliff as the Netherlands—only more quickly. Despite the legal requirement that all euthanasia deaths be asked for by the patient, Belgian doctors—and nurses—also commit non-voluntary euthanasia. For example, a, found that of 248 euthanasia deaths, 120—nearly 50%—were administered without request, and moreover, that many deaths were facilitated by nurses. Perhaps even more frighteningly, voluntary euthanasia has been coupled with organ procurement—potentially giving the despairing a reason to end their own lives as a way of serving others, while offering society a utilitarian stake in their deaths. Not only that, but at least three elderly couples have received joint euthanasia killings based on their fears about future widowhood.

Switzerland: A very liberal Swiss assisted suicide law has led to a growing international industry in “suicide tourism” that has taken the lives of hundreds of sick and despairing people—including many people who were not terminally ill. Meanwhile, Ludwig Minelli—owner of the suicide clinic Dignitas, was reported by UK media to have become a millionaire from his suicide business, which caters to foreigners. Not coincidentally, theSwiss Supreme Court created a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill.

Oregon: When faced with these facts—and many other horror stories too numerous to recount here—assisted suicide advocates point to Oregon to show that medicalized killing can be practiced in a restricted manner. But Oregon has also had its share of abuses. In 2008, for example, Randy Stroup and Barbara Wagner—both on Oregon’s rationed Medicaid program—were prescribed chemotherapy to extend their lives when their terminal cancer recurred. When they asked for Medicaid to pay their medical bills, it refused but sent a letter offering to pay for their assisted suicides. Meanwhile, anarticle published in the Michigan Law Review by Dr. Kathleen Foley—one of America’s most respected palliative care physicians—and psychiatrist Herbert Hendin—one of the United States’ most notable experts on suicide prevention—revealed that Oregon’s protective guidelines “are being circumvented” routinely by doctors because the state’s bureaucrats too often act “as defenders of the law rather than protectors of the welfare of terminally ill patients.”

All of this—and much, much more that could be written—demonstrates vividly that the assisted suicide movement is a clear and present danger to the lives of the weak, vulnerable, and despairing. Indeed, lurking beneath the loud assertions of “My life, my death, my choice,” lurks an ideology that would lead us toward for-profit suicide clinics—already proposed in Oregon—and a virtual death on demand social ethic. That is the ugly truth that simplistic billboard sloganeering and emotionalist campaign tactics just can’t hide.