The Corruption of Compassion and the Contagion of Euthanasia

This below article argues that the more our western culture sends the message that some lives are less valuable than others, the more some people will internalise the message and decide to commit suicide. It argues that Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws have the side effect of spreading the psychological contagion of suicide.

In Canada, “natural death” must be “reasonably foreseeable” before a doctor may euthanize a patient. In spite of such statutory language, in A.B. v. Canada, a case decided this June, the Court judged that the anticipated natural death need not be “imminent”; it need not even be “connected to a particular terminal disease or condition.”

[…]  The foundation for this decision was an earlier Canadian Supreme Court case, Carter v. Canada. It overturned the law that criminalized both the assisting of another’s suicide and the consenting to one’s own death, on the grounds that the law “unjustifiably infringed” upon the rights and freedoms of “competent adult persons.”

The slippage is part of a common pattern. A strong element in contemporary secularism sees human life as the personal property of its person. When suffering renders life burdensome to self or others, it can and may be disposed of; this is, for such secularists, the “compassionate” thing to do. But—as Canadians and others have by now found, again and again—the contagion of assisted suicide, once the command “Thou shalt not kill” is set aside, quickly spreads elsewhere.

The push for assisted suicide is really a corruption of compassion. True compassion requires recognizing what followers of the Abrahamic faiths have long recognized: human life is animated by the soul, fashioned by G-d in the image of G-d. Life has been given to the human in trust, and it can only be protected and respected by following the universal ethical values of the Noahide Code, a set of principles at the root of the world religions.

The Contagion of Euthanasia

Regimes in which euthanasia prevails create a contagion of killing, which travels far beyond the “limits” initially intended by its proponents.

[…] One vector for the contagion of euthanasia is the vagueness of the terms in which the conditions for termination of life are expressed. Alex Schadenberg, International Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, provides a couple examples. A.B. v. Canada, the case cited above, arose because the petitioner’s doctor was unwilling to execute a woman with excruciating osteoarthritis, fearing that if he did so, he might be charged with murder. If the requirement that death be “reasonably foreseeable” is supposed to rule anything out, it probably should rule out killing someone with painful, non-terminal arthritis—yet the court found some way to justify the killing. Schadenberg also points to a case of a young man in a Vancouver nursing home who was diagnosed with a neurological disease and struggled to “find a cure with massive doses of vitamins.” Nowhere near dying, this man was nevertheless killed by a Vancouver physician.

The spread of the contagion is facilitated by financial motives also. Insurance companies, trying to save money, often seek to replace sanctity of life with so-called quality of life. Dr. Brian Callister, an associate professor at the University of Nevada School of Medicine and former head of the State’s Medical Association, attempted to transfer two patients to hospitals in other states, so they could receive potentially life-saving treatments unavailable in Nevada. His patients were denied insurance for their transfer and treatment. The insurers asked: “Have you considered suicide?” Speaking from personal experience, Dr. Callister says, “Assisted suicide changes the way we care for patients. It creates a dangerous segue to perverse incentives for insurance companies and there’s no going back from that.”

[…] Stephanie Packer, a vibrant mother of four from California, suffers with scleroderma, a terminal condition. She was advised by her insurance company to seek a prescription from her doctor for a lethal medicine that would only cost her a $1.20 co-pay, instead of granting her the financial assistance she sought for life-affirming treatments at UCLA.

The bottom line is that it is cheaper for an insurance company to kill you than to pay to manage your condition and your pain. It is a scary thought that once Euthanasia is legal that insurance companies will be well within their rights to deny you palliative care. This is one consequence of Euthanasia law that I had never heard of. If you think that makes good financial sense then perhaps we should apply that thinking to jails as well. Afterall the cost of keeping a person in prison for a life sentence is incredibly expensive while the cost of a bullet is cheap.

The Psychological Contagion of Suicide

Humans do not live in isolation. The more our culture sends messages that some lives are less valuable than others, the more some people will internalize messages to end their lives. A psychological contagion of suicide is unleashed by euthanasia and assisted suicide laws. Condoning suicide in one circumstance implicitly condones it across the board. The wrong of suicide is no longer absolute: death is made a reasonable—even the expected—response to pain, misfortune, and sadness.

[…] It is perhaps no accident that Oregon, the first state to legalize assisted suicide, has a general suicide rate some 40 percent higher than the American national average.

[…] The culture of suicide, given its imprimatur by the state, confounds the efforts of parents and caregivers. There’s something patently contradictory in a state’s provision of, on the one hand, a suicide hotline and, on the other, assisted suicide. The depressed and disabled need our care and encouragement […]

True Compassion

The very expression “mercy killing” is an oxymoron

[…] People frequently request euthanasia when they are emotionally and/or psychologically distraught. Evidence from Oregon demonstrates that assisted suicide is overwhelmingly requested and granted based on misguided “compassionate” concerns such as burdening family and caregivers. It is prompted by fears of the loss of autonomy, of control over bodily functions, and of the ability to participate in enjoyable activities.

Euthanasia therefore abandons people at their most vulnerable. Rather than providing compassion and support for people in their suffering, euthanasia presents a callous and insensitive “alternative.”

[…] True compassion balances kindness towards suffering with respect for the boundaries and purposes of persons as defined by their Creator. The most important boundary drawn around life is to protect it.

[…] We can see a shining example of true compassion in the case of an Oregon resident, Jeanette Hall. After receiving a terminal diagnosis of cancer, she requested lethal drugs, thinking it appropriate to “do what our law allowed”—a law for which she voted. Her doctor, however, encouraged her not to give up, even though medical diagnosis gave her six months to live. A decade later she is still surviving.


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