Physician-assisted suicide puts the lives of vulnerable people at risk
Advocates for physician-assisted suicide try to mask its dangers by claiming that it fosters personal autonomy, values compassion, and delivers "death with dignity." In reality, it is a weapon used to target the weak and the sick. Experiences drawn from Europe and U.S. states that permit physician-assisted suicide show that it only harms those who need competent medical care and community services.
We must work to affirm the inherent dignity of all human life. It doesn’t matter if someone is sick, aging, depressed, disabled, or poor.
But physician-assisted suicide turns the right to life into a duty to die. It threatens the lives and inherent dignity of the vulnerable among us while forcing doctors to either kill their patients or be a party to their patient’s suicide. A closer look at the practice reveals how it inherently harms the vulnerable among us, healthcare professionals, and our society.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is physician-assisted suicide? How is it different than euthanasia?
Physician-assisted suicide is when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing him with a lethal dose of medication, knowing that the patient may commit suicide by taking that lethal dose.
Euthanasia is when another person administers the dose or otherwise personally assists in ending the life of a person. The main difference between the two is that with physician-assisted suicide, the patient himself takes his own life with the prior assistance of a doctor, while euthanasia involves another person killing the patient.
Where is physician-assisted suicide legal in the United States?
Currently, physician-assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
Is there a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide?
No court, federal or state, has ruled physician-assisted suicide to be a constitutional right. In fact, in Washington v. Glucksberg the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the argument that physician-assisted suicide is a fundamental right under the Constitution, saying that the government has an “unqualified interest in the preservation of human life.”
Does legalizing physician-assisted suicide hurt anyone?
Yes. The evidence from European countries and U.S. states that have legalized it shows physician-assisted suicide uniquely disadvantages the terminally ill, the chronically sick, the disabled, the poor, and the depressed. Everyone else in our society is the beneficiary of robust suicide-prevention efforts, yet these vulnerable groups are discriminatorily subjected to offers of death instead.
Physician-assisted suicide is also easily used to convince and pressure vulnerable people to end their lives prematurely, despite the fact that there are viable medical options to treat pain which enable those with terminal diagnoses to live lives with dignity. Supposed safeguards never turn out to be effective in the real world. So, what is promoted as voluntary often turns out to be anything but. The terminally sick are often pressured into assisted suicide to keep from being a burden on their family or society.
It also compromises the medical profession, turning the Hippocratic Oath on its head and forcing doctors to participate in their patient’s suicide.
What if a patient is really suffering? Are there any alternatives for them?
There certainly are. In fact, we have never had better care and alternatives for those who are ill, even for patients with terminal diagnoses. Palliative care, for example, has seen considerable improvements in this last decade alone, to the point that pain management is possible for the vast majority of patients.
Additionally, treatment for mental illness and depression has greatly improved, as has support for those with disabilities. Not to mention that terminal diagnoses are often wildly inaccurate in the first place. It is not uncommon for patients to outlive these diagnoses by years or even decades.
Why do people resort to physician-assisted suicide?
Studies show that most people don’t turn to suicide because of unbearable pain that cannot be managed. Instead, they do so because they fear that they will no longer be able to live independent lives. In fact, many medical conditions invoked for physician-assisted suicide are not terminal at all.
Physician-assisted suicide laws in the U.S.
Hover over the blue states to view details
Christian Medical & Dental Associations v. Bonta
ADF Articles on Physician-Assisted Suicide
Laws that legalize physician-assisted suicide facilitate a culture of death that is hard to stop once it starts.
Pray that health care professionals would continue to stand in their personal and religious convictions.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Christian physician and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations are suing the state of California.