NRL News

Assisted Suicide Mendacity

by | Dec 6, 2016

By Wesley J. Smith

Dr. Timothy Quill

Dr. Timothy Quill

Assisted suicide advocates are so full of it. Here’s just one example. Dr. Timothy Quill is a long-time assisted suicide advocate and practitioner. In an interview with an assisted suicide proponent, the bioethicist Arthur Caplan, Quill pretends that legalization laws are about “physical suffering.”

From the Medscape interview (my underlining):

Dr. Caplan: Let me end with this notion of suffering. Some would say that we’re too conservative in these states that have legalized. The trigger is terminal illness. We talk about 6 months to live. We could argue about whether that’s predictable or meaningful, but put that aside. In some parts of Europe and in Canada now, people say that the issue is suffering. It isn’t about whether you’re terminally ill or not. If I’m going to suffer from horrible depression, if I’m going to suffer from whatever it is that makes me suffer terribly, I don’t have to be terminally ill. Shouldn’t I be able to get some help from a physician?

Dr Quill: Yes, you clearly should. The question is whether you should be allowed to get this kind of help. Suffering is a very broad concept.

In my opinion, the more you have terminal illness with severe physical suffering as a major piece of the puzzle, the more you’re on solid ground. The more it’s psychological or spiritual suffering with less physical suffering and less terminal illness, the more the population gets bigger and the uncertainty about evaluation gets more difficult. So, that is clearly a big problem that needs to be addressed.

I don’t think this is an option to address, personally. That envelope will get tested as we move along with this, so we are going to need to find edges to it. Severely terminal illness is a good edge. It’s not the firmest edge in the world, but it’s a good edge, and predominant physical suffering as a piece of the puzzle seems to me a good edge.


Not one law in the United States allowing physician-assisted suicide requires proof of physical suffering to obtain a lethal prescription. They just require a death doctor to diagnose a terminal illness likely to result in death in six months or less–which is sometimes incorrect. For example, Michael Freeland lived two years after receiving a lethal prescription in Oregon. I have a friend diagnosed with three months to live–ten years ago.

Moreover, the statistics from Oregon and elsewhere show that very few people commit assisted suicide due to physical suffering. Rather, the issues are predominately existential, such as fears of being a burden or losing dignity Also, notice the door is already open to broadening the assisted suicide license by using a “suffering” standard rather than a terminal illness requirement–as they do in the Netherlands and Belgium where any “physical” part of that equation evaporated quickly allowing the mentally ill, disabled, emotionally distraught, and elderly to be killed by doctors.

As I said, assisted suicide advocates are so full of it.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Wesley’s great blog.

Categories: Assisted Suicide