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America’s Incoherent Attitude Towards Suicide

November 24, AD2015

Pixabay-DespressionTrying to make sense out of our country’s thoughts and feelings when it comes to suicide is like trying to decipher a map made up of coded symbols in a language we can’t understand. In some cases we encourage it. In some cases we rally against it. In some cases we protect against it. In some cases we think it should be legal. It is an incoherent mess of poor philosophy and even worse implications.

For starters, in September of this year we had National Suicide Prevention Week. Celebrated from September 7-13th, the week was highlighted by World Suicide Prevention Day, which is held on September 10th each year. People rally together to support those who have lost loved ones, raise awareness of those who might be at risk, and draw attention to resources available to those who might be contemplating suicide. The whole week is a great way to raise awareness of one of our country’s biggest epidemics, especially among those veterans who have served in our country’s military.

Another Pro-Choice Mantra

Meanwhile, as many as twenty states around the country are introducing bills to legalize euthanasia, or doctor-assisted suicide this year, with more to follow. Several states already allow this practice, and the “right to die” is quite literally replacing the “right to life” right before our very eyes. The movement is sweeping the nation and those who support doctor-assisted suicide continue to rally around the “choice” mantra, claiming that if a person wants to end his or her life, he or she should be able to. If it hasn’t already, this battle against the dignity of life is coming to a town near you.

It’s tough to make sense of why we would want to allow one person to help another person kill himself. One reason, I believe, is the transformation in our understanding of suffering. We have transformed suffering from being a means to something to being an end to be avoided. Suffering used to be seen as a road to virtue, a means to build endurance and character. In a society where virtue and endurance are wholesale disregarded, suffering becomes an end to be avoided. Why suffer when nothing good can come of it? This is what happens when the pursuit of happiness becomes more important than the pursuit of holiness. When suffering prohibits so-called happiness, death becomes the preferable option. Anything to avoid suffering becomes desirable. I’m not saying we should go out of our way to seek and embrace suffering, but to choose death over it is to deny the value that can be found in it.

In any case, there is a disconnect in our philosophy when it comes to suicide. It’s a tough disconnect to figure out. In some cases, we want to prevent our citizens from choosing suicide, and in some cases we encourage it. Sure, advocates will point to doctor-assisted suicide and say that those who choose the practice are mostly elderly folks, terminal patients, those who are suffering with awful physical infirmities. For the most part they might be right, at least for now. But is there any question that if we start allowing people to choose their own deaths, more and more people will claim to have a “right” to choose it?

The biggest issue with this disconnect is that we are trying to nominally separate the two categories of people tempted to suicide, and it cannot be done. We are trying to label those who are “eligible” for suicide, and those who are not. On one hand, we look at a 31-year-old drug-addicted male suffering immensely from depression and give him pamphlets for suicide hotlines, numbers for mental health counselors and treatment centers, and try to make sure he has all the help he needs to stay alive. On the other hand, we have a 78-year-old woman struggling with the pain of brain cancer, and she is given a prescription for life-ending drugs.

The end result is the encouragement of suicide across the board. There is no conceivable way to look at the 31-year-old and treat him differently than the 78-year-old. She has an unbearable amount of physical pain and wishes she could die. He has an unbearable amount of mental and emotional pain and wishes he could die. One of them is “eligible” for doctor-assisted suicide and one is not.

But it’s simply not possible to separate these two groups of people. In Oregon, suicides have spiked across the board. When we start encouraging suicide in one population, we encourage it in all populations. Jonathon Van Maren notes as much in this article written for LifeSiteNews. He says, “The idea that our government, our health care system, our society, would send such mixed signals to those contemplating suicide is criminally negligent and outright disgusting.” The implication is that it is not possible to allow suicide in one population without encouraging it in others.

On the other hand, what we have successfully and diabolically categorized are those persons who perceive their lives to be worth living and those persons who do not perceive their lives to be worth living. When we start agreeing that some lives are not worth living, we have created that second category into which anyone can throw themselves. Pretty soon that category will not be specific to age, illness, or any other arbitrary principle.

The Incoherence of the “Right To Die”

Gradually, more people will edge themselves into this category and begin demanding the “right to die”. We’ve seen this happen in Belgium, where a 24-year-old woman was granted the right to die without any physical illness, though she eventually changed her mind. As more and more people are granted the “right to die”, we will eventually lose the ability to withhold the “right” from anyone.

For the sake of another example, there is an entire community of people who refer to themselves as trans-abled. These are people, some of whom are perfectly healthy, who believe they have some sort of serious bodily anomaly. Some have already taken to chopping off their own limbs; what happens when a person claims he or she has a terminal illness despite all evidence to the contrary, and therefore should be granted the right to die? Again, there is no way we will be able to present a valid reason why the “right to die” should be withheld from them either.

The underlying implication here is that one person’s life can be more important than another person’s life. If this erroneous premise holds, then who gets to decide the value of a person’s life other than the person himself? And if the person gets to decide, then we won’t be able to determine a valid reason why the “right to die” should be withheld from him.

Nobody wants to talk about the slippery slope, and so I won’t. At least not for long. But I would like to point out that it’s not that big of a jump from deciding that a person should be able to choose to end his or her own life to deciding that a person doesn’t have the capacity to make that choice and someone else should make it instead. We already grant mothers the right to end the lives of their children before they are born; how much longer will it be until we grant the same right after the child is born? In the UK, a set of parents decided that their 12-year-old disabled daughter’s life was no longer worth living, and were granted to right to euthanize her. May God help us if we continue to pretend as though there is nothing wrong with that. And we are blind if we pretend it isn’t coming to the United States.

Encourage, Not Discourage

When we begin to devalue people’s lives, we encourage people to choose suicide, and we discourage hope. People look at others making the suicide choice and wonder why they ought not make the same choice. Assisted suicide in general is based on the premise that doctor’s prognoses are always correct, even though it’s clear they are not. Patients with hope have better prognoses, recover faster, and manage illnesses better. Yet we are ignoring this whole phenomenon by allowing, and in some cases encouraging, people to choose hopelessness and choose death.

When we try to water down the dignity and value of human life, we create a society in which death can become the preferable choice to life. At that point, life has been so devalued that many will forget that it had meaning in the first place. If life is perceived as meaningless, it makes no difference whether a person chooses life or death. And if life is meaningless, why not choose death? A person asking this question will have an incredibly difficult time finding the answer in the very culture of death that created the whole question in the first place.

All the mixed signals, incoherence, and hopelessness produced by assisted suicide and the so-called “right to die” point to the need for a consistent philosophy when it comes to the value and dignity of all human life. An ideology which promotes the dignity and value of all human life does not leave room for one person’s life to be more valuable or meaningful than another person’s life. There is no category of person whose life is not worth living because everyone’s life is worth living. We would encourage all people to choose life because we see the dignity in it.

The advancement of the culture of death will have reached an important milestone if assisted suicide becomes mainstream medical practice. We should pray that the United States turns back to God and we all begin to embrace our identities as His sons and daughters. It is only through an increased understanding of our identities that we begin to fight for a culture of life, showing appreciation for life in all its different stages.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Cullen is a husband, father, writer, and lover of Truth. He has a Mental Health Practitioner License in the state of Nebraska, and has years of experience working with persons struggling with mental illness and addiction. For the past four years, he has also been involved with Rachel's Vineyard ministry for post-abortive women, serving as the counselor for their weekend retreats. Cullen is a regular contributor at The Blaze, LifeSiteNews, Live Action News, and Catholic Stand. He has a passion for writing about pro-life issues, Marriage, fatherhood, and building a culture of life. He lives in the midwest with his wife and two sons. Follow Cullen on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cullenheroutwriter.

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  • adam aquinas

    Assisted dying is a conflation of contradictory and circumloquacious rhetoric. Americans and Europeans are are death phobic and grief-illiterate. My comments are directed at scenarios where the dying person is clearly terminally ill as determined by several doctors, clearly lucid and capable of rational decision making as determined by a mental health professional and whose pain is intractable, incapable of relief through medication.

    We, as routine practice and with the blessing of the RCC, give heavy duty pain medication whose prime effect is to attempt to relieve pain but whose side effect is to rapidly hasten death…morphine is an example which reduces awareness of intractable pain yet significantly depresses breathing as a side effect. We are too fearful of the “slippery slope” phenomenon. We assist the terminally dying in ending the life cycle in hospice all the time. Yet as long as the primary intention of the drug is to alleviate the pain, the consequence of hastening death is acceptable…just up the titration of the morphine.

    It’s all about intention…and every assisted death which meets my criteria above, has the intention of alleviating intractable pain.

    • adam aquinas

      Also the theory related to the above comment by me is: The Doctrine of Double Effect

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-effect/

    • james

      All words but His will pass away so to show the folly of them using the Doctrine of Double Effect I will play advocate to those who enjoy … thinking.

      If you take the first condition for the application of the principle of double effect as
      outlined in the new Catholic Encyclopedia, the birth of any person on earth is not covered

      1. The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.

      – In arguing the case of abortion the proponents have cause to invoke this first condition
      in the case of rape or incest.
      – Sex outside of marriage is immoral and therefore does not allow for the birth.
      – The act itself results in death and much worse the possible loss of the soul to everlasting damnation.
      – The act itself will result in harm both to the individual and others due to the negative effects of concupiscence.

    • adam aquinas

      james, my reference to the principle of double effect was related to my comment just above it, (dealing with pain meds which hasten death) ,,,it had nothing to do with abortion, sex, etc.

    • james

      I guess you don’t enjoy thinking Have a good one.

    • adam aquinas

      The post was about assisted suicide, so I think about that issue….you introduced other issues which I choose not to respond to. I like staying on topic,,,have a great holiday!

    • james

      You too, thanks.

  • james

    I’m not sure if the CC still refuses services, burial in a Catholic cemetery and pronounces suicide a mortal sin but on this last note I prefer the eastern speculation that those who take their life become ghosts, able to continue on as a shade to see the continuing effects of their choice on family friends
    and society. This makes sense as someone who hates their body so becomes disembodied. If this was postulated as a possibility maybe someone afraid of this scenario would think twice.

    • Reminds me of the Woods of the Suicides in Dante’s Inferno.

      You bring up an interesting idea.

    • james

      Worse than being buried at a crossroads so as to be continually run over in four directions

    • Leila Miller

      Yes, suicide committed with full knowledge and full consent of the will is a mortal sin. But remember that three conditions must always be in place for a sin to be mortal:

      1) It must be a serious sin (and suicide is a serious sin)

      2) The one who commits it must know it’s a serious sin.

      3) The sin must be committed with full consent of the will.

      #3, especially, is something we cannot know, but we realize that oftentimes those who commit suicide are not in their right minds and cannot be said to “consent” fully to what they are doing. Many who commit suicide do not want to die as much as they simply want the pain to end and don’t know a different way out. People not in their right minds have lessened culpability.

      If you want to know what the Church says (and yes, the Church does now provide services and burial for those who commit suicide), there is always the Catechism:

      Suicide

      2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

      2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

      2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

      Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

      2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

    • james

      Thank you for the update and Happy Thanksgiving

    • Leila Miller

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! 🙂

  • America has a similar incoherent attitude with abortion. If someone kills a 30-weeks-pregnant woman, that’s a double murder… if a woman aborts a 30-week-old baby, that’s just her “choice.” Makes no sense.

  • Andre B

    There is no conceivable way to look at the 31-year-old and treat him differently than the 78-year-old. She has an unbearable amount of physical pain and wishes she could die. He has an unbearable amount of mental and emotional pain and wishes he could die. One of them is “eligible” for doctor-assisted suicide and one is not.

    I’m curious as to why you seem to think there’s no difference between 1) somebody suffering from what might be a very treatable condition that could go on to live another 50 years, and 2) somebody with a very un-treatable condition at the end of their life?

    • Cullen

      Hi Andre,
      Thanks for reading! To reiterate, the point is not to say that the two are the same. The point is to say that if they both perceive their lives to be no longer worth living, we can’t encourage one to choose life and allow the other to choose suicide. If we allow one person the “right to die”, what valid reason do we have to withhold that “right” from someone else? So we say that it’s okay to allow suicide, but only under conditions a, b, and c? If you don’t meet those conditions, you are not granted the “right”? In a way, this works for some other rights (the right to vote, for example), but I see no way that any conditions hold for any substantial amount of time with this so-called “right”. You only have to read the examples given to show that those conditions will change, be challenged, and eventually be rendered meaningless.
      Further, just to repeat again, the fact that a person’s life is “almost over” is not a bulletproof prognosis. There are many cases in Oregon where a person was prescribed life-ending drugs in 2010 or 2011 and didn’t take the drugs until 2013 or 2014. Obviously, those cases prove that a prognosis of “six months or less” is extremely subjective and has *probably* (there is no way to prove this, I suppose) resulted in the premature ending of lives that may have continued for years.

      Thanks again for reading!

    • Andre B

      Hi Cullen,

      Thanks for getting back to me. A few thoughts:

      The point is to say that if they both perceive their lives to be no longer worth living, we can’t encourage one to choose life and allow the other to choose suicide.

      Apparently we’re going to disagree on this. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to, in the first case I referred to, make every effort to convince somebody with a treatable condition that there are better alternatives than ending their life. I don’t see how that stance is incompatible with allowing somebody with no hope of recovery, and who is certain they will suffer more than they can bear, to choose to end their life.

      If we allow one person the “right to die”, what valid reason do we have to withhold that “right” from someone else? So we say that it’s okay to allow suicide, but only under conditions a, b, and c? If you don’t meet those conditions, you are not granted the “right”?

      Do you know of many unconditional rights?

      In a way, this works for some other rights (the right to vote, for example), but I see no way that any conditions hold for any substantial amount of time with this so-called “right”.

      I’m not sure I understand what you mean here, especially the “substantial amount of time” bit. Could you rephrase?

      You only have to read the examples given to show that those conditions will change, be challenged, and eventually be rendered meaningless.

      It’s not clear which examples you’re referring to.

      There are many cases in Oregon where a person was prescribed life-ending drugs in 2010 or 2011 and didn’t take the drugs until 2013 or 2014. Obviously, those cases prove that a prognosis of “six months or less” is extremely subjective and has *probably* (there is no way to prove this, I suppose) resulted in the premature ending of lives that may have continued for years.

      You’ll forgive me but, in addition to this being quite vague, I’m not sure that a few edge cases does much to “prove that a prognosis of “six months or less” is extremely subjective” in any way that would be meaningful to those wrestling with these decisions. I’m fairly certain that these people are told that there’s a chance that they might outlive their prognoses by some amount of time, but if somebody is in extreme pain, the last thing they might want is to live for several years *longer* than their prognoses estimates.

    • Cullen

      Andre,

      I agree with you that we should be encouraging recovery in those with treatable conditions. You have good points, and I appreciate your input. My question remains the same: Do you have any evidence to suggest that if assisted suicide is legalized, more and more people will claim to have a “right” to it, and that eventually, the conditions under which it is allowed will become less stringent and ultimately meaningless?

    • Andre B

      Do you have any evidence to suggest that if assisted suicide is legalized, more and more people will not claim to have a “right” to it

      First of all, you seem to be using scare-quotes re: somebody’s right to decide how they choose to die, and I don’t understand why you would choose to do this. Second, I would think there would be no point in trying to legalize assisted suicide if nobody was going to avail themselves of it – so, to answer your question: of course I think (initially) more people will choose to end their lives this way. I also think that the number will remain relatively small.

      and that eventually, the conditions under which it is allowed will not become less stringent and ultimately meaningless?

      No, I don’t believe that the conditions will become so lax as to be meaningless. I certainly think that we will need to be very vigilant against abuses, and I understand some of the fears, but I don’t envision a future where the elderly or the depressed are rounded up against their will and turned into Soylent Green.

    • Leila Miller

      Andre, you said: “I think it’s perfectly reasonable to, in the first case I referred to, make every effort to convince somebody with a treatable condition that there are better alternatives than ending their life. I don’t see how that stance is incompatible with allowing somebody with no hope of recovery, and who is certain they will suffer more than they can bear, to choose to end their life.”

      Many people with major depression feel they have “no hope of recovery” (and they may only partially get relief, let’s be honest) and are “certain they will suffer more than they can bear” (although how could one possibly know this with “certainty” in advance of it?). Some clinically depressed people, and many with no terminal illness at all, have been assisted in their decision to kill themselves. On what basis can you argue against their “right” to do so, other than it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to you?

    • Andre B

      Leila,

      Let’s keep in mind that my initial comment was in regards to Cullen repeatedly asserting there was no difference between allowing a young person with depression to commit suicide and that of an elderly person with a terminal illness.

      Many people with major depression feel they have “no hope of recovery” (and they may only partially get relief, let’s be honest) and are “certain they will suffer more than they can bear” (although how could one possibly know this with “certainty” in advance of it?).

      Sure, and besides serving as a reminder that we need to do a much better job with mental health in this country (and others), this is (at best) an argument against allowing those who are not suffering from terminal illnesses to have access to assisted suicide (and maybe that’s what we ultimately decide is best).

      As relates to the two examples I mentioned, I would think you could find many young people who, having been properly diagnosed and treated, have gone on to live what they would consider to be full and happy lives, and would thank those who tried to change their minds about suicide. I think this number would far outweigh the number of people who, having been properly diagnosed with a painful, terminal illness at the end of their lives would thank you for refusing to allow them to have ended their suffering sooner.

    • Cullen

      Andre,
      I can see we disagree on some of my main points here, those being 1) if we allow suicide in one population, we are encouraging it in others, and 2) the conditions we have in place (as far as who is eligible) will eventually change and become meaningless.

      My thoughts are mostly based on what we have seen happen in other places where assisted suicide has become legal. Just as one quick example, in Oregon, some of the case reports indicate that the end-of-life condition was diabetes type I. I’m not going to argue whether this is an adequate diagnosis, but I will argue that if we have allowed one person with type I diabetes to choose this option, there is precedent to allow another to do the same.

      Leaving all that aside, I think we agree on a lot of things as well, including the necessity of improving the mental health system. For the sake of discussion, I’d like to focus on what we agree on. You noted (I’m paraphrasing) that you believe it is a good idea to encourage those with mental illness to choose life instead of suicide, which I certainly agree with. At what point would you say that the game changes, and instead of encouraging life, you would be okay with choosing suicide? What is the marker you use to determine?

    • Andre B

      Cullen,

      Just as one quick example, in Oregon, some of the case reports indicate that the end-of-life condition was diabetes type I.

      I hope I won’t seem to harsh when I say that these types of vague examples with no citation aren’t particularly helpful to the discussion. Without any other context, this is pretty meaningless.

      At what point would you say that the game changes, and instead of encouraging life, you would be okay with choosing suicide? What is the marker you use to determine?

      I think the biggest markers I would use would involve qualified people concluding that the individual had no real hope of either 1) living much longer, and/or 2) living without unbearable suffering.

    • Cullen

      Andre,

      “I hope I won’t seem to harsh when I say
      that these types of vague examples with no citation aren’t particularly helpful
      to the discussion. Without any other context, this is pretty meaningless.”
      Not harsh at all. Here’s a link:

      http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/oregon/

      This link contains links to each of the yearly case reports filed in the
      state of Oregon under the Death With Dignity Act (DWDA), as well as other links
      you might find noteworthy. Peruse as you see fit. The case reports are one of
      the “safeguards” against abuse of the DWDA,
      but you’ll note that the reports are completed by the doctors themselves, and
      even the reports say that the information might be untrue. Not much of a “safeguard”
      if you ask me. As a side note, I tried linking each of the separate reports
      earlier today, and it seems the comments have disappeared. So I’m trying to
      just link to the page. The links themselves all work properly.

      Anyway, in the reports you can find the reasoning behind patients
      choosing to avail themselves of the DWDA, and it’s there you will find some of
      the varying illnesses that have led people to choosing assisted suicide.

      “I think the biggest markers I would use
      would involve qualified people concluding that the individual had no real hope
      of either 1) living much longer, and/or 2) living without unbearable suffering.”

      So given the two markers you listed, would you at least concede that
      there is the possibility that those could be seen as subjective? The reports
      themselves indicate that even though a “qualified individual” (or two, as
      Oregon’s law requires) has given a prognosis of less than six months, it
      oftentimes doesn’t happen that way. That prognosis is up the doctor’s
      subjective discretion, and has in the past proven to be inaccurate in some
      cases. As far as the second criteria, there is nothing more subjective than
      that. What’s bearable or unbearable to one person might not be so to another.
      The 31 year-old in the original post suffers pain that he considers unbearable.
      If he tells a doctor that he is going to jump off a bridge if the doctor doesn’t
      prescribe him life-ending medications, he’s clearly not going to live much
      longer. Does he now meet your criteria?

    • Andre B

      Hi Cullen,

      My reasons for asking for the link to the diabetes case was that it’s not at all clear what the context is for saying the end-of-life condition was diabetes I. I couldn’t find anything in your follow-up link to shed any light on this. For all we know, it was an elderly person who was dying of complications due to diabetes I.

      So given the two markers you listed, would you at least concede thatthere is the possibility that those could be seen as subjective? The reports themselves indicate that even though a “qualified individual” (or two, as Oregon’s law requires) has given a prognosis of less than six months, it oftentimes doesn’t happen that way. That prognosis is up the doctor’s subjective discretion, and has in the past proven to be inaccurate in some cases.

      I think that describing a doctor’s prognosis as “subjective” can be somewhat misleading. Leaving aside that, as you note, assisted suicide generally requires multiple qualified individuals to sign-off, these doctors – at least making physical prognoses – are relying on scientific data. An oncologist isn’t just trusting his gut when he tells you what your odds of beating X cancer if you’re at stage Y are, or how long you can expect to live on average. Not only that, but if the doctor is any good at setting expectations, patients will know that it’s quite possible that they will fall outside the averages. I fail to see how this fact-of-life when it comes to predicting medical outcomes matters. If somebody tells you that you will 100% die in agony, and that on average it will take 6 months, and writes you a lethal prescription – do you care that it took 12 months for you to start feeling pain? How does this undermine the system, in your mind?

      As far as the second criteria, there is nothing more subjective than that. What’s bearable or unbearable to one person might not be so to another. The 31 year-old in the original post suffers pain that he considers unbearable. If he tells a doctor that he is going to jump off a bridge if the doctor doesn’t prescribe him life-ending medications, he’s clearly not going to live much longer. Does he now meet your criteria?

      I don’t it’s wise to allow people to essentially bully their way into life-ending prescriptions, especially if there’s a good chance that they have a treatable/curable condition. So, no – in this example I don’t think the doctor(s) should necessarily prescribe. Obviously what’s unbearable is – to some extent – subjective, but I think that it’s ok to have some restrictions in cases that aren’t terminal.

    • Cullen

      “For all we know, it was an elderly person who was dying of complications due to diabetes I.”

      Absolutely agree. Without doing some serious investigative work, we’ll probably never know. Obviously, it’s pretty likely that it happened exactly as you said, and it was an elderly person suffering from complications, etc. My point, and I guess this is where we disagree, is that now opens the door for others with diabetes I to claim they should be eligible. What if they stop taking insulin? What if they are so depressed over the diagnosis that they no longer feel like living? “There’s no hope of a cure, and that guy over there was given life-ending drugs, I should be able to get them too”. Once you open the door, it’s tough to close it. That’s my only point. You can disagree if you want, but if you look at other places where assisted suicide is legal, the evidence is pretty clear where we’re going.

      “If somebody tells you that you will 100% die in agony, and that on average it will take 6 months, and writes you a lethal prescription – do you care that it took 12 months for you to start feeling pain? How does this undermine the system, in your mind?”

      Because 1) nothing about the future is 100% (okay, death, taxes, haha), 2) When we start writing prescriptions for people who aren’t even yet in pain, I’m thinking the system has already been undermined, and 3) I almost feel bad saying this, but you are presuming that all doctors are perfectly well-intentioned and would never do anything outside the patient’s best interests.

      “I don’t it’s wise to allow people to essentially bully their way into life-ending prescriptions, especially if there’s a good chance that they have a treatable/curable condition.”

      But this is what will happen. Look at other places where it’s legal. Look at the secular progressive bullies in our own country. Doctors will be bullied. Courts will become involved. We’ve seen this play out in other areas. Again, you are free to disagree, but all the evidence shows us where we’re going if we don’t stop now.

      With all that said, I really appreciate this conversation! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and all the best to you and yours.

    • Andre B

      Hi Cullen,

      Sorry for the delay, got distracted over Thanksgiving (and I hope you enjoyed yours)!

      My point, and I guess this is where we disagree, is that now opens the door for others with diabetes I to claim they should be eligible. What if they stop taking insulin? What if they are so depressed over the diagnosis that they no longer feel like living? “There’s no hope of a cure, and that guy over there was given life-ending drugs, I should be able to get them too”.

      I’ll say that the mere existence of slippery slopes isn’t something that I lose a lot of sleep over. I vehemently disagree with the death penalty, but I don’t constantly fret over whether or not I’m next. Next, I think there’s a difference between living with a condition for which there is treatment but no cure vs. a condition where there is neither treatment or cure. To my knowledge, both diabetes i and depression have treatments. While I suppose it’s certainly possible that somebody with diabetes i could develop crippling depression as a result of their diagnoses, I’m skeptical that any great number would. So, to me this just seems like another unlikely edge case.

      Because 1) nothing about the future is 100% (okay, death, taxes, haha), 2) When we start writing prescriptions for people who aren’t even yet in pain, I’m thinking the system has already been undermined, and 3) I almost feel bad saying this, but you are presuming that all doctors are perfectly well-intentioned and would never do anything outside the patient’s best interests.

      1) That’s true, but just for the sake of argument, what’s your answer? 2) That’s fair, I guess I’ll rephrase: do you care if it takes 12 months for the existing pain to become unbearable? 3) Actually, I make no such assumption. The opposite, in fact. I think that we should have both the option to be assisted in our deaths, and be as vigilant as possible to ensure that that patient’s best interests are being preserved. The difference, as I see it, is that opponents believe that suicide is never in the patients interest, and I feel like there are cases where allowing somebody to end their life is a mercy.

      But this is what will happen. Look at other places where it’s legal […]

      This is vague, but even if it’s accurate, it’s part of a case to reform policies and add safe-guards. It’s not a good argument for denying those with no hope of treatment.

    • Leila Miller

      Yes, except that the trend is to widen, not limit, the parameters for who should or could receive help in committing suicide. Do you see it tightening up at all? If so, where?

      Also, you talk repeatedly of “elderly” terminal patients, or those at the “end of their lives” (I assume that, also, means “old”). If a young patient (like Britney Maynard) wanted to kill himself or herself, would you be fine with society helping him or her?

    • Andre B

      Leila,

      Yes, except that the trend is to widen, not limit, the parameters for who should or could receive help in committing suicide. Do you see it tightening up at all? If so, where?

      You want to talk about trends, that’s fine, but that’s not what I was talking to Cullen about. I certainly think that there’s a trend to widen access to assisted suicide to terminal patients, especially those who are in great pain. While it’s not an issue that I keep super-current on, I would think that the support for allowing access for such people is highest, and that there’s a fairly steep drop-off when we look at non-terminal people who will *merely* suffer pain for the rest of their lives.

      Also, you talk repeatedly of “elderly” terminal patients

      I mean, to the extent that I’m repeatedly talking of elderly terminal patients, it’s because I’m using the two examples that Cullen gave in the OP (a young non-terminal and an old terminal).

      or those at the “end of their lives” (I assume that, also, means “old”).

      In the context of what I was responding to (again, Cullens examples), yes your assumption is correct.

      If a young patient (like Britney Maynard) wanted to kill himself or herself, would you be fine with society helping him or her?

      On the one hand, you might want to factor in the possibility for miraculous recovery when there’s a chance for so many more years of life. On the other, that’s easy to say if you’re not the one who’s got to endure the pain. So, if it was determined that they were terminal and were certain to have to endure more suffering than they thought they could and/or wanted to bear, yes.

    • Leila Miller

      You said:

      “I certainly think that there’s a trend to widen access to assisted suicide to terminal patients, especially those who are in great pain.”

      So, the two middle-aged, healthy brothers who were going blind should not have been helped by the medical establishment to kill themselves?

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2262630/Brother-deaf-Belgian-twins-killed-euthanasia-describes-final-words-reveals-live-learning-going-blind.html

      And yet, they saw a future that was unbearable. Who are you (or a government) to say what is a good or bad reason to end one’s life? (The argument goes).

      “While it’s not an issue that I keep super-current on, I would think that the support for allowing access for such people is highest, and that there’s a fairly steep drop-off when we look at non-terminal people who will *merely* suffer pain for the rest of their lives.”

      And yet, if the pain — physical or emotional — is, in the subjective opinion of the sufferer, unbearable, who are you to say? I’m confused what your underlying principle is for this subject. (I’m really into finding the moral principle behind people’s beliefs, these days, sorry!) 🙂

    • Andre B

      Leila,

      So, the two middle-aged, healthy brothers who were going blind should not have been helped by the medical establishment to kill themselves?

      You know, the reason why I keep prefacing my comments to you with the initial reason I commented is because I have no desire to tediously wade through every edge-case you can come up with.

      And yet, if the pain — physical or emotional — is, in the subjective opinion of the sufferer, unbearable, who are you to say? I’m confused what your underlying principle is for this subject.

      Who am I to say? What a silly question, as if this entire time I’ve been pretending to give anything other than my opinion. Look, as I’ve said many times in this thread so far, even if we as a society reach a point where we consider, in certain circumstances, that people have a right to assisted suicide [AS], that does not mean this right should (uniquely?) be an unlimited one.

    • Leila Miller

      So, your principle in all of this is “it’s just my opinion”? I don’t get that. What is right and true? What is real and good? Is it whatever a society has decided? Based on…. what? Again, what’s the moral principle at work here? And, we always have to go back to: What is a right? Where do rights come from? And, if we have a moral “right” to kill ourselves if we are done with life, then why would the state have any right to interfere with that decision?

      As far as the blind brothers, it may (or may not) be an “edge-case” right now, but it won’t be soon. You are a bright person, Andre, and you know that we can look ahead to the “progressive” European states to see where we are headed if we stay on this road. They already allow the euthanizing of children, and they allow physicians to assist the suicides of young and non-terminally ill persons, including for depression only.

      The strangest (and increasingly common) argument I hear from progressives and secularists on why we wouldn’t (yet) allow certain practices (whether it’s this issue, or polygamy, or whatever) is “but no one is clamoring for it!” That is an illogical argument, since no one was once “clamoring” or even asking for many of the major social changes that have come our way in recent decades.

    • Andre B

      Leila,

      This will be my last response, since you’ve begun your usual habit of trying to put words into my mouth.

      So, your principle in all of this is “it’s just my opinion”? I don’t get that.

      No. “It’s just my opinion” was my response to your question “who are you to say”, as if I had been making grand declarations that everyone should have to follow.

      Bye bye now.

    • Leila Miller

      Think deeper, Andre. What’s the underlying principle? On what do you base your opinions? I don’t expect an answer, but hopefully you’ll give that some thought.

  • An excellent article that points out all the problems with this culture of death we are in the midst of. As the author so aptly points out, this is why man is NOT God and has no business deciding who lives and dies. Inevitably it leads to horrendous atrocities. I don’t have a problem with the death penalty for certain cases, but I’d forgo the death penalty completely if assisted suicide and abortion were also completely abolished.

    I’m not surprised at the way the culture of death has advanced. The Germans didn’t just start hauling off Jews to camps. No, they first desensitized Germans to human life with the T4 project. Get people to consider some people not worthy of life, then just keep expanding the scope of the group. The Nazis were very successful as witnessed by the death camps and the numbers murdered.

    Americans have been desensitized first with abortion, now the dying and severely handicapped were targeted and people got used to that old “quality of life” scam; now it’s expanding more and more.

    It’s something we can’t stop fighting against. Eventually LIFE wins, we know, cuz our Book tells us so.