Over the last decade, Americans have debated whether to legalize certain forms of assisted suicide. Proponents focus on the terminally ill, those people whose prognoses hold no hope whatsoever for recovery, pain-free living, and dignity in their last days. Opponents have warned of slippery slopes and speculated that social acceptance of the act would lead to expanded use.
The Times of London reports that Switzerland has proven the slippery-slope argument. Dignitas, a Swiss right-to-die organization, has announced that it will press legislators to allow the chronically depressed to choose assisted suicide as a permanent cure:
BRITONS suffering from depression could soon be legally helped to die in Switzerland if a test case in the country’s Supreme Court is successful next month.
Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Dignitas, the Zurich-based organisation that has helped 54 Britons to die, revealed yesterday that his group was seeking to overturn the Swiss law that allows them to assist only people with a terminal illness.
In his first visit to the country since setting up Dignitas, the lawyer blamed religion for stigmatising suicide, attacking this “stupid ecclesiastical superstition” and said that he believed assisted suicide should be open to everyone.
“We should see in principle suicide as a marvellous possibility given to human beings because they have a conscience . . . If you accept the idea of personal autonomy, you can’t make conditions that only terminally ill people should have this right,” he told a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton.
“We should accept generally the right of a human being to say, ‘Right, I would like to end my life’, without any pre-condition, as long as this person has capacity of discernment.”
Those of us who opposed assisted suicide for precisely this reason will soon get the opportunity to say “we told you so”. This organization wants to turn suicide into an industry, apparently akin to abortion. Just as with the gateway arguments about life-and-death decisions for killing a fetus led to laws and court decisions creating a right to abortion on demand for any reason, assisted suicide is now being cast as a “choice” that only “stupid ecclesiastical superstition” would oppose.
Human society developed limits on actions over millenia for reasons tied to the survival of the society. In the case of suicide, most civiliations understand this as a blow to the community, not just the family, and those “superstitions” existed to ensure that human life could sustain itself. At the heart of the issue, it springs from the value of human life and its sacred nature. When societies stopped believing in those concepts, life became just another commodity measured on its convenience to those around it.
The effort by Dignitas seems especially cruel. The chronically depressed need treatment, not an easy way to deliver what they often attempt without assistance. Freeing them from societal constraints against taking their own lives will certainly put a lot of money into the pockets of clinic owners. It will also allow men and women to end treatment that could eventually make them whole and healthy — or avoid trying treatment at all.
It would devalue humanity and human life to that of a throwaway consumer product.
We have been down this road before. Those of us who believe in the spiritual value of human life have predicted this development for some time. Eventually the limits our ancestors applied in their wisdom will disappear, and assisted suicides will start claiming hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands each year as we are scolded to respect a person’s “right to choose”. And then what happens? When the government keeps increasing health-care benefits to its citizens, when does it start to take the decision for “suicide” out of the hands of the chronically depressed and impose it upon them, using the excuse of non compus mentis?