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A libertarian call to defeat NY Bill A.995/S.2445 “The Medical Aid in Dying Act”

by | May 24, 2024

By Gordon Friesen

Gordon Friesen

Honorable Senators and Assembly Members,

It is a widely shared principle that, as long as our actions cause no harm to others, we might all be allowed to do as we please. And so it is that many principled people of a libertarian leaning –and many, even, who are personally repulsed by the idea of assisted death– feel a visceral duty to support the right of others to choose the manner of their own passing.

Contrary to much public perception, however, A.995/S.2445 does not simply propose a liberty of permission for this purpose. Not at all!

At the heart of A.995/S.2445 lies the radical concept of “medical assistance in dying”, whereby assisted suicide is redefined as medical care; which is to say: as an objectively positive benefit and human right. Hence, the real effect of this Bill (in keeping with the logical requirements of that definition) will be to create sweeping new entitlements, obligations and mandates

Entitlements and mandates, to be sure, have nothing to do with freedom of choice. They are public policy instruments –the flip side of prohibitions– meant to promote some choices at the expense of others. In the present case (whether intended or not) the effect of medical mandates is to maximize the incidence of assisted death, and thus to compromise (in equal measure) those treatment options available to the non-suicidal majority.

To take one key example, § 2899-M (section 2-A) states that institutional non-participation will be permitted for private facilities only, and only upon moral or religious (meaning essentially arbitrary) grounds. It is thus assumed that “normal” medicine –and especially publicly funded medicine– must include assisted death as a matter of course.

Unfortunately, however, this principle disagrees with both majority patient choice, and that of their doctors.

Let us pass quickly over the embarrassing fact that doctors, worldwide and in keeping with a stunningly successful 2,500 year tradition –established not in Christian Europe, but in the permissive moral climate of earlier Greece and Rome– widely reject the medical normalization of assisted death, and that the American Medical Association also remains opposed to any such practice.

Let us focus, rather, on the serious harms which any mandated clinical inclusion, of assisted death, must force upon that overwhelming majority, of typical patients, who remain resolutely non-suicidal.

It is impossible, I submit, to believe that physicians (or nurses) who participate in any form of medical homicide might still be considered as appropriate caregivers for that patient majority. Clearly, we are in the presence of two mutually exclusive clinical visions.

Assisted death cannot be “added” to traditional medicine, any more than meat can be “added” to a vegetarian diet! Any rash insistence on doing so, through legislative action, can only weaken the core mission of our medical industry.

Indeed, among our Northern neighbors, where the MAID [Medical Assistance in Dying] concept first appeared in legislation (Quebec 2014 , Canada 2016 ), the effect of such entitlements and mandates has been to normalize the use of assisted death, to such an extent, that the vast non-suicidal majority of eligible patients must now navigate a clinical environment which has become objectively indifferent (if not openly hostile) to their continued survival.

Very obviously, no coherent system of individual liberty might ever have produced such a result.

Most certainly, also, a principled defence of death-by-choice does not require liberty-minded citizens to espouse this extreme theory of death-as-care. Both Switzerland  and Germany, recognize a general right to suicide (including assisted suicide) but also refuse to accord such actions any objective validation (medical or otherwise) precisely in order to honor sovereign subjective freedom, and to avoid the effects of entitlements, mandates and obligations as described above.

In conclusion, therefore: Although I am personally opposed to any assisted death whatsoever, I also recognize that a sincere philosophy of “live-and-let-live” might indeed inspire principled support for death-by-choice. But not with just any Bill. And certainly not with this one! For whereas all recourse to assisted death involves exposure to recognized social harms, the pseudo-medical logic of Bills like A.995/S.2445 carries that damage to an entirely new, and truly industrial level.

In the end, we must decide whether New York’s medical industry will be structured to prioritize the satisfaction of typical patient choice, or that of a small suicidal minority; and above all: whether a radical new paradigm of utilitarian death-medicine, as now seen in places like Canada –and so clearly echoed in A.995/S.2445– will be allowed to high-jack the freedom agenda entirely.

With the greatest respect, I urgently request the defeat of this legislation.

Gordon Friesen,
President, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Editor’s note. This appeared on the webpage of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Assisted Suicide