Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
Washington state today has become the second American state to legalize assisted suicide, joining neighboring Oregon.
As a result of last year’s state ballot Initiative 2000, terminally ill patients in Washington state can now obtain lethal medications from doctors in order to kill themselves.
But this advance in the “right” to commit suicide has provoked a split in the assisted suicide movement, Associated Press reports: Members of the Final Exit network are working to facilitate suicides across the nation without legal sanction or the assistance of doctors, whereas other assisted suicide proponents — including the notorious “Dr. Death,” convicted murdered Jack Kevorkian — argue that the act should only be undertaken with medical supervision.
Go here to read the Associated Press report about the division among assisted death proponents, which was highlighted by the recent arrest of four Final Exit members who allegedly facilitated the illegal suicide of a Georgia man.
To those who believe in the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death, the debate among proponents of assisted death has a surreal ring. Consider this quote from a representative of the only-doctor-supervised-killing-is-ethically-acceptable wing of the assisted-suicide movement:
“It just feels like something that’s so totally different from what we do — working with legislators, physicians and pharmacists over the ethical way to do this,” said Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Oregon-based Death With Dignity National Center. “I’m concerned there’s not a set of standards that are followed that protect people.”
Talking about the need to “protect people” would seem to be a rather strange comment from a representative of an organization that exists to help kill people.
The truth is, there is no ”ethical way” to help people commit suicide, whether or not the act itself involves the sanction of “legislators, physicians and pharmacists.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “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” (no. 2281).
And it’s a sad day for America that Washington state today has become the second U.S. state to lose sight of this fundamental moral reality of human existence, by its legalization of doctor-assisted suicide.