NRL News

Only Pro-Assisted Suicide Types Yell “Religion!”

by | Oct 30, 2014

By Wesley J. Smith

Such two-dimensional thinking by so many pro assisted suicide advocates.

It’s about forcing religion, they yell. “Pope, keep your hands off my body!”

Steve Siebold

Steve Seibold

For example, Steve Siebold–who laughably advertises himself as “an expert in the field of critical thinking” (who does that?)–says that assisted suicide isn’t legal throughout the country because of religion. From his blog post at the HYPERLINK “”Huffington PostHYPERLINK “”:

What’s holding back physician-assisted suicide to become the law of the land? For one, the Church. In the Roman Catholic Church, suicide is a sin because only God has the authority to end a human life. No evidence exists to support this claim, yet it’s the undercurrent of the laws banning assisted suicide.

It’s time for thinking people to stand up and start pushing back on issues that involve human suffering. If someone chooses to believe that God wants her to suffer through a terminal illness that’s her decision, but when you force the rest of us to obey laws based on evidence-less beliefs it’s wrong and needs to be stopped.

What utter, shallow crappola. What noncritical thinking!

All major opponents of assisted suicide of whom I am aware make rational, secular, and public policy-related arguments against legalization. They don’t talk religion.

I am a consultant to the Patients Rights Council, perhaps the most prominent nonprofit educational organization opposing assisted suicide. Check its WebsiteIt never mentions religion.

Moreover, in my view, assisted suicide has been primarily thwarted by the disability rights movement, most members of which are distinctly secular, generally liberal politically, and indeed, not pro-life on abortion.

Sure, the Catholic Church opposes assisted suicide. But in so doing, it doesn’t make “sin” arguments.

Case in point: The splendid Richard Doerflinger is the point man against assisted suicide for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He never talks sin, or God, but public policy. For example, hit this link to read his Congressional testimony against assisted suicide and in favor of the Pain Relief Promotion Act–ultimately killed by assisted suicide advocates because it didn’t permit killing–and you will see that religion is never discussed. Here is a brief excerpt:

When we accept assisted suicide as a “good enough” solution for these patients, we preach a counsel of despair to all terminally ill patients. We tell them that we find it easier to kill them than to find ways to kill their pain. By rejecting the “quick fix” of assisted suicide, however, we reaffirm to ourselves and to the medical profession that these patients have lives worth living, and that they deserve real solutions for the pain, depression and isolation that they may experience.

One might disagree with Doerflinger–-I agree with him–-but it is a more substantive argument than screaming, “Look at Brittany Maynard!,”  added to the bald assertion that assisted suicide is a “right.” Siebald calls that “critical thinking.” Hardly.

But let’s get even more specific. Hit this link to read a “fact sheet” [ ]about assisted suicide put out by the USCCB. Note, no mention of God or “sin;” not one! Here’s an example of its rational advocacy:

A decade after Oregon’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide took effect, suicide had become “the leading cause of injury death” in Oregon, and “the second leading cause of death among Oregonians ages 15-34.” The suicide rate in Oregon has been rising since 2000, and in 2007 was “35 percent higher than the national average” – without counting physician-assisted suicides of seriously ill patients, which Oregon law does not allow to be counted as suicides.

State public health officials have recommended special efforts to prevent suicide among young people, seniors, and veterans (who tend to have more physical health problems than others), and to “promote universal depression screening and care for adults, particularly seniors by healthcare providers” — screening that Oregon law does not require, and Oregon doctors usually do not provide, for those requesting physician-assisted suicide.

One can think there is no connection between legalization of assisted suicide and the increased suicide rate in Oregon–I think there is–but it isn’t a religious argument.

Using the religion canard allows “critical thinkers” like Siebold to avoid a substantive and thorough discussion. It is a way of avoiding true engagement by setting up a straw man to knock down. It is lazy, insipid, and all too predictable.


Editor’s Note: This appears on Wesley’s blog as well.

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