The Right to Die May Become a Duty to Die

As a follow-up to Melinda’s post on “death with dignity,” here’s an excerpt from a post by Wesley J. Smith titled “How Assisted Suicide Advocacy Hurts the Sick.” A friend of Smith’s who had ALS wrote this in 1997, during a time when there was a similar push for assisted suicide in the media. Since he was fighting to live, he said, “They are trying to drive me from the well-lit boulevards into the dark alley,” and he wrote “I Don’t Want a Choice to Die” for the San Francisco Chronicle explaining his anger against those who promote assisted suicide:

[A]s Chicago’s beloved Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote to the Supreme Court just before he died: “There can be no such thing as a ‘right to assisted suicide’ because there can be no legal and moral order which tolerates the killing of innocent human life, even if the agent of death is self-administered. Creating a new ‘right’ to assisted suicide will endanger society and send a false signal that a less than ‘perfect’ life is not worth living.”

Euthanasia advocates believe they are doing people like me a favor. They are not. The negative emotions toward the terminally ill and disabled generated by their advocacy is actually at the expense of the “dying” and their families and friends. We often feel disheartened and without self-assurance because of a false picture of what it is like to die created by these enthusiasts who prey on the misinformed.

What we, the terminally ill, need is exactly the opposite — to realize how important our lives are. And our loved ones, friends, and, indeed, society need to help us feel that we are loved and appreciated unconditionally.

Instead, reporting in the media too often makes us feel like token presences, burdens who are better off dead…. 

If physician-assisted suicide is legally available, the right to die may become a duty to die. The hopelessly ill may be subtly pressured to get their dying over with — not only by cost-counting providers but by family members concerned about burdensome bills, impatient for an inheritance, exhausted by care-giving or just anxious to spare a loved one further suffering.

In my view, the pro-euthanasia followers’ posture is a great threat to the foundation upon which all life is based, and that is hope. I exhort everyone: Life is worth living, and life is worth receiving. I know. I live it every day.

Read the rest of what he wrote. Wesley J. Smith’s blog, Human Exceptionalism, is an excellent resource for following the latest bioethics issues in the news—surrogacy, transhumanism, euthanasia, ESCR, etc. I recommend it.

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Amy K. Hall

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