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Gov. Brown’s “selfish and short-sighted” decision to sign a bill legalizing assisted suicide

by | Oct 6, 2015

By Prof. O. Carter Snead

Editor’s note. The following statement comes from Prof. Snead, the William P. and Hazel B. White Director, Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame.

cartersnead39reIn signing a bill legalizing assisted suicide in the nation’s most populous state, California Governor Jerry Brown said, “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”

What he should have been reflecting on instead were the poor, the disabled, the marginalized, and the elderly who are now exposed to grave and lethal new risks of fraud, abuse, mistake, and coercion.

He should have been reflecting on those who are suffering from untreated (but treatable) depression or badly managed (but manageable) pain, for whom the path of least resistance is now self-administration of lethal drugs.

He should have been reflecting on the aged, who are now at risk of an entirely new form of elder abuse.

He should have been reflecting on the financially disadvantaged, whose insurers will now weigh the low costs of assisted suicide against more expensive palliative treatments.

He should have been reflecting on the disabled, who are terrified about the subtle coercion that will now be brought to bear by others who consider their lives not worth living.

He should have been reflecting on the path taken by countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, where assisted suicide quickly gave way to euthanasia, first voluntary, then nonvoluntary – in name of false autonomy and compassion.

He should have been reflecting on the experience of Oregon, where there is no meaningful data collection, and virtually no referrals for psychological evaluations or pain management consultations, even though those with suicidal ideation require both forms of basic health care.

Governor Brown and those like him–affluent, privileged, able-bodied, and with supportive families–are not the ones who will pay the price for this new “freedom.” Governor Brown has purchased the right to assisted suicide at the expense of the disabled, the marginalized, the poor, and the elderly.

Shame on him for being so selfish and short-sighted.

Categories: Assisted Suicide