Chuck DeVore- Contributor
DeVore represents 450,000 residents of Orange County
70th Assembly District.. He served as a Reagan White House
appointee in the Pentagon from 1986 to 1988 and was Senior
Assistant to Cong. Chris Cox. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Army
National Guard. Chuck’s novel, CHINA
ATTACKS, sells internationally and has been translated
into Chinese for sales in Taiwan. [go to DeVore index]
Should California allow doctors to help patients to kill themselves?…
[Chuck DeVore] 3/4/05
With libertarians, liberals, and seven out of ten Californians
on one side, who can be opposed to doctor-assisted suicide?
in. While seemingly compassionate on its face, this is a very
that, if passed, some of us won’t live
long enough to regret.
Let us first agree that no one wants to see a dying patient
stripped of dignity and trapped inside a suffering body. With
modern pain-suppression drugs, however, the terminally ill need
not suffer unbearable pain. Furthermore, the cause of most suicides
is not pain itself, but depression.
Leaving that aside for the moment, consider two powerful exhibits
in the case against assisted suicide, which Assembly Bill 654
by Democrats Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine would legalize: Holland
and newly disabled people.
The Netherlands has allowed doctor assisted suicide for over
20 years, ever since the courts ordered it in 1984 (yes, liberal
judges lurk everywhere), then finally passing a voluntary euthanasia
law in 2002.
studies of the Netherlands’ experiment
have uncovered a chilling reality: many deaths reported as assisted
suicides are actually cases of euthanasia where doctors deemed
a person’s life was not worth living – then ended
it for the victim. Physicians, who are often seen as knowing-best,
tend to devalue the life of an ill or disabled person, as do
others in society. Of course, a non-doctor’s view of a
suffering or disabled person hasn’t the potentially grave
impact as a physician holding the power of life and death.
As a result,
what started as assisted suicide for terminally-ill people
Netherlands now includes chronic illness, psychological
illness, and even those who can’t decide for themselves.
reason, the elderly in Holland are often afraid to go to the
a serious illness for fear a doctor may
decide to kill them. Add to this, an increasingly socialized
medical system where there is mounting pressure to cut costs
by prescribing a one-time $50 drug cocktail to end suffering,
rather than pay for an ongoing costly treatment plan that may
keep a “useless” person alive.
Furthermore, when doctors decide to kill, often left out of
consideration is any undiagnosed mental illness such as depression.
Ongoing pain often causes depression. Thus, requests for assisted
suicide are highly connected with unrelieved pain.
Let us now consider the second matter, the fate of the newly
disabled. Those who have recently been disabled are often profoundly
depressed, and a great number of them desire to end their lives
soon after acquiring the disability.
After a period of grieving passes, however, most people with
a new disability learn life does not end because of their disability.
For these people, life becomes worth living again and they are
glad they did not take that final step because while suffering
can be manageable or transient, death is always permanent. And
death of this horrific sort only serves to cheapen life in society
and within the medical profession.
assisting in a suicide or, as in the Netherlands, taking an
in killing another “suffering” person,
we do not enhance their humanity, we simply collude in the dehumanization
of all people everywhere.
then, is not senseless death but better, more effective health
addresses patients’ suffering
and, just as important, their fears.
must be said of the doctors’ part in this equation.
By enacting assisted suicide, we would be asking doctors to violate
their Hippocratic Oath, which says “First do no harm.” Significantly,
the American Medical Association has repeatedly weighed in against
this procedure, saying it is “fundamentally incompatible
with the physician’s role as healer” and “would
be difficult or impossible to control” – as has been
the case in Holland.
the push for assisted suicide ignores the fact that a person’s worth is not contingent upon their
ability to “do.” What’s
more, just because a person is infirm or suffering, this does
not render their life as one not worth living. These people can
and do make contributions to society in a variety of ways.
oneself in the face of pain or depression may be a seemingly
attractive, even compassionate path to take, but it is actually
just the opposite. Yes, let us find ways to truly help those
in desperate situations. But assisted suicide? It is the
wrong prescription. CRO
2005 Chuck DeVore