Doctor-Prescribed Suicide is Never the Answer: Commentary

The disability community has been trying to have honest end-of-life conversations for years. After all, we’re the real experts on the front lines of the health care system that serves (and, sadly, often underserves) dying people. But for the most part, the megaphone has remained firmly within the grasp of the assisted suicide lobby and its well-intended supporters, many of whom haven’t been exposed to complete information about the construction, operation and consequence of such laws. Last week, California became the fourth state to legalize assisted suicide, providing the state’s imprimatur on the notion that some suicidal people warrant suicide prevention services and some warrant help getting the job done. Tragically, the only difference between those two groups is their health status or disability. Those already at increased vulnerability for depression and abuse because of their failing health are the ones who get state-sanctioned assistance with their suicidal ideations. Soon after Brittany Maynard became the long-awaited face of the right-to-die movement, the assisted suicide lobby (Compassion & Choices) enjoyed a fresh crop of proposed bills in sixteen states, with twelve defeats, California passing last week, and three others still pending. Although this whole ugly business seems far more palatable when such noble aims as pain mitigation are headlined, 17 years of available data do not bear out this claim. Oregon’s annual report data demonstrate that it’s social factors that propel assisted suicide requests. According to one study, “loss of autonomy” (92 percent), “less able to engage in activities” (89 percent), “loss of dignity” (80 percent), “loss of control of bodily functions” (50 percent), and “feelings of being a burden”...