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Today we are facing a push by those in favor of euthanasia and assisted suicide to gain widespread public acceptance of these practices and legalize them in countries around the world. The United States is currently faced with health care reform that may open the door for euthanasia and assisted suicide, all in the name of “cost cutting” and “efficiency.”

As of 2009, forms of assisted suicide or euthanasia are legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States. Assisted suicide is legal in the three American states of Oregon (via the Oregon Death with Dignity Act), Washington (by Washington Initiative 1000), and Montana (through a trial court ruling).

Current Issues

Assisted suicide and euthanasia reflect how we value life for all people – including the elderly and those that suffer with disabilities and illness. It is clear that there are vulnerable populations that must be protected legally, socially and medically. These people must be given the greatest amount of care possible, not ushered toward premature death through legislation, policies, lack of appropriate treatment, etc. Once the door is opened to allow “aid in dying,” we fundamentally and irreversibly change the way we view human life and the value we put on it.

Supporters of assisted suicide and euthanasia express the need for compassion and dignity as terminally ill people struggle in pain at the end of their lives. No one would argue against a need for compassion and dignity as people struggle in pain, but as one author put it, this is truly “compassion run amok.” Compassion does not require taking the life of someone, even if they are enduring great difficulty and pain. Voices now speak out in favor of allowing severely depressed people, even teenagers, to end their lives. We cannot accept the notion that some people deserve to live more than others, and allow society to embrace policies that promote the killing of a vulnerable segment of our population.

Carrie Gordon Earl explains that “physician-assisted suicide opens the door to euthanasia abuses. Allowing physicians to cross the line into killing does not stop with willing patients who request it. A case in point is in The Netherlands where doctors have practiced physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia for more than a decade. Two Dutch government reports, conducted in 1990 and 1995, found that, on average, 26 percent of euthanasia deaths in Holland were “without the explicit consent of the patient.” In 1995, 21 percent of the patients who were killed without consent were competent. Dutch physicians have also extended the practice of euthanasia to include comatose patients, handicapped infants and healthy but depressed adults. In 1996, a Dutch court found a physician guilty of euthanizing a comatose patient at the request of the patient’s family. Although the court determined the patient was not suffering and did not ask to die, the doctor was not punished. In 1995, Dutch physician Henk Prins was convicted of giving a lethal injection to a baby born with a partly formed brain and Spina bifida. The court refused to punish Prins. That same year, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that physician-assisted suicide might be acceptable for patients with unbearable suffering but no physical illness. A 1996 survey of Dutch psychiatrists found 64 percent of those responding “thought physician-assisted suicide for psychiatric patients could be acceptable.”

While these examples may seem extreme, they reflect a view that not all people should be allowed to live, especially when there are financial costs to consider.

“Escalating health care costs coupled with a growing elderly and disabled population set the stage for an American culture eager to embrace alternatives to expensive, long-term medical care. The so-called “right to die” may soon become the “duty to die” as our senior, disabled or depressed family members are pressured or coerced into ending their lives. The move toward managed care also threatens to promote euthanasia as more and more doctors are offered financial incentives to decrease the number of health care dollars spent per patient.

United States Issues

As U.S. President Obama’s healthcare reform plan, H.R. 3200, makes its way through the House of Representatives and the Senate, it has touched off more debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide. “A health economist warns that President Obama’s government-run healthcare plan may result in denying care to a significant number of Americans, especially senior citizens. Conservative opponents of President Obama’s healthcare plan argue that a government takeover of healthcare will allow Washington bureaucrats to use “comparative effectiveness research” to dictate to doctors which treatments they should prescribe and how much those treatments should cost. Critics say this will lead to rationing of care.”

Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Florida) says the House healthcare bill essentially tells senior citizens to “drop dead.” Despite their promise to care for our seniors, Democrats have decided that it’s too expensive to care for my senior constituents and everyone else’s constituents,” she contends.

President Obama recognizes that under his proposed system there will have to be rationing of care and that it is not feasible to cut costs and give everyone the treatment they may want. In a “town hall” meeting he discussed these issues and left many people wondering if this bill opens the door to a thinly disguised form of euthanasia – simply denying the care needed by elderly or disabled people would most likely hasten their death.

Throughout the world, citizens of a variety of nations are faced with policies and legislation that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. These practices devalue human life and create a society that takes advantage of its most vulnerable members. In the United States and in Canada we must stand now against legislation and “reforms” that do not value life. We have an opportunity to make our voices heard and stand for life.

We must stand up and let our voices be heard!

– 3 things you can do to stand for life –

1. Let your government officials know that euthanasia devalues life and cannot be accepted in any society that values its citizens.

2. Send this link to 10 of your friends and family – people must be educated on this issue so that we can make a difference.

3. Donate to UFI – If protecting your life is important to you, please consider making a $25, $50 or even $100 donation today to help us continue to stand for life.

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