By Gary Boyd
Joey Bunch of the Denver Post called attention in a recent article to pending legislation in Colorado with the aim of legalizing physician-assisted suicide for the terminally-ill. Reading the article, particularly the story of Charlie Selsberg, who starved himself to death when faced with ALS, would lead the reader to believe that cases do arise where a physician-assisted suicide appears compassionate, both to the terminally-ill patient, and the patient’s loved ones.
Varying segments of society endeavor to define moral and immoral behavior. While ideas on morality vary widely, few disagree that taking human life unnecessarily constitutes the pinnacle of immorality. May an exception to this widely-accepted premise exist, where one is terminally ill and may suffer unspeakably before the end arrives?
Candidly, I personally do not believe in physician-assisted suicide for any reason. However, there are two aspects of it, which, should physician-assisted suicide rise to the level of an institution in any country, would undoubtedly plunge any nation that embraces it into a sordid morass.
First: Follow the money. Many authors who have written on the subject of health have demonstrated in recent years that physicians are often highly compensated by companies whose products the physicians recommend, or for rendering services wherein the physician is held out as an expert. There is no question that a financial motive would emerge amongst physicians for prescribing end-of-life medication or procedures. You may not mind your doctor making a buck by prescribing medication that might help you if you succumb to high blood pressure. How do you feel, though, about the incentivization by the pharmaceutical manufacturers of medication designed to kill you? If we look at how other medical products and services have been incentivized, only extreme naiveté would preclude us from seeing the inevitable subjection of life-ending products to the same to the same market forces that have popularized other drugs and procedures.
Second: Other conditions, medical and nonmedical, would begin to be viewed differently, with the idea that perhaps the compassionate thing to do is to allow the sufferer to slip into eternity peacefully. Within a few decades, and perhaps sooner, individuals who suffer emotionally, and those who are down on their luck, may also be considered good candidates for physician-assisted suicide. Who could argue that allowing those not terminally-ill to have access to physician-assisted suicide may become looked upon as nonjudgmental, and perhaps even fashionable?
While nobody wishes to see their loved ones suffer through days that are numbered, certain safeguards to protect the sanctity of the life of the born, even if they were born a long time ago and have struggled considerably since, need to remain in place.