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Assisted suicide advocate questions “limits” set by assisted suicide laws in the United States

by | Jul 22, 2021

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I don’t usually write about pro-euthanasia books but Katie Englehart’s  recently published book titled The Inevitable — Dispatches on the Right to Die (St. Martin’s Press, 2021) merits an exception. 

Englehart may be promoting her book by discussing provocative issues, but it represents the mainstream of the euthanasia lobby and her writing should be seen as a wake-up call.

We have known for many years that the assisted suicide lobby limited expansion of assisted suicide where it is legal  in the United States in order to claim that there is no “slippery slope.” So it is not surprising that Englehart questions the “limits” set by assisted suicide laws in the United States. 

She writes the following in her Good Death Society Blog:

Away from the public eye, new questions about the practice of physician-assisted death continue to emerge. Should doctors actively present the option of assisted death to their dying patients – because, of course, doctors are meant to present us with all of our options? Or should they wait until their patients ask about it, lest the simple act of providing information be interpreted as an endorsement or a sign that the doctor has lost hope?

The real question she is asking is should physicians promote assisted suicide to people who they believe are better off dead. She then asks:

Can assisted death ever be something that hospitals advertise? If a doctor refuses to assist in death, should he/she have to refer an inquiring patient to a doctor who will? Is physician-assisted death better carried out by a small number of specialized physicians, or by family doctors? The specialists would quickly become skillful, but the family doctors are more accessible. Also, specialization might ghettoize assisted death – and make it seem like something separate from normal end-of-life medicine.

Forcing doctors to refer, advertising death and creating killing specialists (which already exists) will normalize killing.

 She continues:

[S]hould aid-in-dying patients be allowed to donate organs? Of course, that would require that the patients die in a hospital, via injection, to preserve the health of the vital parts – so we would need to change the death-with-dignity rules.

Her point is clear, if doctors can euthanize their patients, then organ donation becomes an option. 

She then follows that up with euthanasia by organ donation:

While we’re at it, why not go one step further to really maximize the chances of successful transplant: Allow organs to be removed from patients who are under anesthesia but still living, in such a way that the surgery itself would kill them? No doubt, some charitable patients would want the option of “death by donation,” as researchers call it. The question is whether the state should allow it: whether death by donation would amount to an odious ethical breach or would just be an efficient way to make the best of a bad situation – for the good of us all.

Englehart is not merely asking a question, but is offering a proposal. Englehart continues:

As they are, existing Oregon-style DWD [Death With Dignity]  laws are defective. They grant rights to some patients but not to others, in ways that can seem arbitrary and unwise. A breast cancer patient who can swallow lethal medication might have the right to end her life with a doctor’s help, but not a brain cancer patient whose tumor has robbed him of his ability to move and to swallow. A person with six months left to live might be declared eligible, but not a chronically ill person in 10 times more pain. Why should someone who is approved to die be made to wait for 15 days, suffering the whole way through? And what do we do about all the people who would rather be dead than have dementia?

Americans who oppose assisted suicide correctly recognized that the Oregon law was/is only a stepping stone. Assisted suicide leads to euthanasia, and homicide by organ donation will be sold as “a loving and generous act.”

Editor’s note. This appears on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Assisted Suicide