By Victor Gelfuso
New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act is the key that would open Pandora’s box. For centuries, most medical professionals took a Hippocratic Oath to “first, do no harm” and “never administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor suggest such a course.”
One of the first principles of morality is to never intentionally take the life of any innocent human being. Once we break from this absolute standard, we open a door that leads down a very dangerous road. Proponents of physician-assisted suicide are often highly critical of the “slippery slope” argument, but these are not theoretical concerns. Some European countries now allow full-scale euthanasia and assisted-death for individuals who do not even have a terminal illness.
In Switzerland, no medical condition is required to request assisted suicide. According to a 2013 article in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 25 percent of patients who die by assisted suicide there do not have a serious or terminal illness, but are simply elderly or tired of life.
In the Netherlands, euthanasia can be requested for patients as young as 12, and the Groningen protocol allows doctors to euthanize ill newborns at the parents’ request without fear of legal prosecution.
This is not at all surprising. The most dangerous thing about assisted suicide is its logical conclusions. The requirements for assisted suicide are so subjective as to make it virtually impossible to draw the line in which circumstances physician-assisted suicide could be allowed.
Each person has a different capacity for pain. At what level would pain warrant assisted-suicide? Pain is unquantifiable.
The “terminal illness” standard is just as arbitrary. Sometimes, patients live long past their diagnosed death expectancies.
Under New York’s proposed legislation, a patient would need to be expected to succumb to their illness within six months. But if it is acceptable at six months, then why not at seven, or 12, etc.? If so much weight is given to the personal choice of the individual, there is no logical reason why they would be unjustified in ending their lives decades ahead of their prospective natural death. Truthfully, life itself is terminal, and if we apply the logic of assisted suicide, anyone with or without an illness could justify suicide by arguing that death is inevitable anyway.
Proponents of assisted suicide argue that individuals have a human “right to their own bodies” and a “right to die.” Most people believe that human rights are not subject to circumstance. If this is the case, anyone can claim a right to suicide regardless of their mental state or any illness. If anyone finds life unenjoyable for any reason, what is to stop them from ending it by using this line of reasoning?
Two indisputable facts of life are that people are fallible and death cannot be undone. A patient who dies by assisted suicide extinguishes any possibility of being cured and any possibility of regaining the will to live. As amazing as our medical professionals are, they are still human, and humans make mistakes.
When it comes to assisted suicide, medical organizations give a resounding no. The American Medical Association takes the position that “permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide and euthanasia would ultimately cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks. Euthanasia could readily be extended to incompetent patients and other vulnerable populations.”
Similarly, the American College of Physicans’ position is that “assisted suicide is problematic given the nature of the patient-physician relationship, affects trust in the relationship and in the profession, and fundamentally alters the medical profession’s role in society.” This is echoed by the World Medical Association, whose code of ethics states: “Physician-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. Where the assistance of the physician is intentionally and deliberately directed at enabling an individual to end his or her own life, the physician acts unethically.”
We are not our own. We have duties to others that cannot be discarded and life is a gift that is not ours to dispose of. There is no such thing as a “right to die.” Our civilization was founded on the principle that everyone has equal intrinsic value because we are created in a divine image. This means that this value is not relevant to the circumstances of our lives. Every person’s life has meaning because God intended them to be here. True dignity is reminding patients that they are still loved, and making sure they know that if they still have a pulse, then God still has a purpose.
Victor Gelfuso lives in Richfield Springs.
Source: “Life a gift we cannot take through assisted suicide,” TimesUnion.com