Author, attorney, and ethicist Wesley J. Smith recently penned a column outlining a serious problem in European countries like Belgium: Doctors and nurses are quitting because of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
You become a doctor or nurse to be a healer palliator of people in serious pain and distress. You have a special place in your heart for the dying, and so you enter the specialized field of palliative care and hospice medicine.
But then, your country decides you should also become killers of the patients you want to succor. If you refuse, you face public criticism, the prospect of being sued, and perhaps one day, professional censure.
What do you do? If you are an ethical professional, rather than be complicit in homicide, you leave the field.
Doctors who specialize in end of life care and pain management — such as palliative care doctors in hospices and long term care facilities — are being forced to choose between their convictions and their careers.
One Belgian doctor said, “palliative care units are . . . at risk of becoming ‘houses of euthanasia’, which is the opposite of what they were meant to be.”
This is a disturbing trend. Palliative care offers terminally-ill people relief from pain and the opportunity to spend quality time with family as they near the end of life. These doctors and nurses provide vital services to people who are dying and to their families. Unlike euthanasia and assisted suicide, palliative care offers actual relief from suffering — without poisoning or killing any patients.
As we have said time and time again, being pro-life is about much more than opposing abortion. We do not eliminate suffering by eliminating people who are suffering. We must respect the sanctity of human life at the end of life as well as at the beginning.
Recently, our friends at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview have published commentaries on assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada.
Last year Canada legalized so-called “medical assistance in dying.” However, many Canadian doctors have been reluctant to help patients end their lives.
Last August, John Stonestreet highlighted a proposal to pay Canadian doctors a premium to prescribe deadly drugs. The goal seems to be to offer a financial incentive to doctors who assist with patients’ suicides.
Yesterday, Eric Metaxas cited efforts to make assisted suicide and euthanasia more accessible for the mentally ill. As Metaxas points out, these newest arguments in favor of expanding assisted suicide in Canada center less around compassion for those who suffer and more around improving society. He writes,
In Canada’s case, [assisted suicide is] being championed by people who claim to be working for a better future. Whatever the setting, compassion is the last thing we should call it.
Christians are often criticized for using the “slippery slope” argument when it comes to assisted suicide — the argument that what starts out as assisted suicide for a few terminally-ill people ends with euthanasia.
In this case, Canada doesn’t simply seem to be on a slippery slope; they’re plummeting down it.
Photo Credit: By Gustavo Vilela Alkmin (Máquina fotográfica de colega) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
You may have heard about efforts in other states to legalize assisted-suicide–sometimes misnamed “aid in dying” or “death with dignity.”
A few states, such as Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado, have passed laws letting doctors prescribe deadly drugs to people with serious illnesses.
Supporters claim doing so helps terminally-ill people end their suffering–that assisted-suicide is for those who are enduring excruciating pain at the end of their lives. However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week is challenging that claim.
Researchers in Canada–where assisted-suicide is legal–found that people inquired about assisted-suicide not because of excruciating pain, but because they are dissatisfied with their lives in the wake of their illness.
As one researcher put it, “Their quality of life is not what they want. They are mostly educated and affluent — people who are used to being successful and in control of their lives, and it’s how they want their death to be.”
Some people have called this study “surprising,” but it really shouldn’t be. A study conducted in Oregon in 1999 concluded, “the decision to request and use a prescription for lethal medications . . . was associated with views on autonomy and control, not with fear of intractable pain or concern about financial loss.”
So why should Christians be concerned about any of this? Well, here are two thoughts:
First, just like abortion, assisted-suicide fails to acknowledge that God is the creator and giver of life. Human life is sacred, and no sickness gives us an excuse to end someone’s life prematurely.
Second, Christians are called time and again to help those who suffer. However, the proper way to eliminate suffering is not to eliminate people who are suffering; that is one of the lies on which assisted-suicide is founded.
If we are going to be salt and light in a dark world, we need to be able to speak the truth on issues like assisted-suicide.