The Myopia of Medical Assisted Suicide

by Joan Cavanagh, member, Second Thoughts CT

“In Austin, Texas, at a ‘You Can’t Close America!’ rally, hundreds of demonstrators, nearly all-white, defied social-distancing guidelines by gathering on the steps of the Capitol…A woman wearing a Keep America Great cap waved a sign reading, ‘My Life, My Death, My Choice, Personal Responsibility…‘” [bold emphasis added.]

See Linda Villarosa, “Who Lives? Who Dies? How COVID-19 has revealed the deadly realities of a racially polarized America,” New York Times Magazine, May 3, 2020, p. 50.

“My life, my death, my choice” is the slogan of Compassion and Choices, the national organization devoted to promoting Medical Assisted Suicide (MAS). That it found its way to a Trump-supporting super-spreader event is not surprising, since the implication is that individual behavior has no impact on the lives of others. One of many reasons to oppose MAS is because the premise of these bills is the same.

“Death with dignity” is a phrase often used by MAS proponents, suggesting that the level of care required by many who are disabled, elderly, or very ill somehow demeans them and is a burden on others and on society. This is a fundamental denial of our human connection and responsibility to and for one another.

Even more insidious, Medical Assisted Suicide can easily morph into treatment-rationing for patients whose health care is deemed too expensive for hospitals and insurance companies to sustain. The COVID crisis has dramatically revealed the ways in which poor, disabled, elderly, black and brown people are already discriminated against within the medical system.

Its advocates argue that MAS is intended only for those with a “terminal illness.” But definitions of what is “terminal” are fluid and subjective, life expectancy projections often mistaken. Treatment (or lack thereof) is too often determined by what a patient’s insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, will and will not cover. Many diseases are “terminal” if left untreated. Allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medication offers a cost-effective “out” for insurers.

While it may provide an individual “choice” for a select few, among its many evils the legalization of Medical Assisted Suicide also opens the door to increased limitations on health care, which is an existential threat to the many. Please tell your state representatives to vote “No” on HB 6425, now pending in the Public Health Committee.

One comment

  • You and I agree on many issues, not on this. Certainly an MAS law might be abused especially in a society where health care is controlled by insurers (a system I hope is on its way out). In the past I think many family doctors tacitly understood that when certain patients asked for a powerful prescription drug like Seconal, the intention was to allow themselves a way out if they needed it. But I think patients need a more dependable resource than the personal views of their doctors. Right-wing Trumpers like to force life on people (hence their attitudes on abortion). People shouldn’t be able to force others to live if they don’t want to, which in effect can mean to torture them. There should be a way to get out of a life you don’t want, when you decide you don’t want it — without the agonizing pain and uncertainties of ordinary suicide.

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