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Male person with gloved hand turns off the intravenous drug system to the unconscious patient
Male person with gloved hand turns off the intravenous drug system to the unconscious patient
Humanize From Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism
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Austria Legalizes Assisted Suicide

Originally published at National Review

A high court in Austria ruled late last year that the rights to self-determination and a “dignified death” encompass the right to commit suicide and receive assistance. Now, the parliament has legalized prescribing poison to terminally ill and disabled people starting next year. From the Deutsche Welle story:

The Assisted Suicide Act gives the option of an advance directive — similar to a living will — only to people over 18 who are terminally ill or suffer from a permanent, debilitating condition.

Each case is to be assessed by two doctors, one of whom would have to be an expert in palliative medicine. As part of their duties, they must determine whether a patient is opting for euthanasia independently.

At least 12 weeks must pass before a patient is granted access to the procedure, to ensure that euthanasia is not being sought due to a temporary crisis. However, for patients in the “terminal phase” of an illness, the period can be shortened to two weeks.

The individual would then draw up their will with a notary or a patient advocate before being able to obtain a lethal drug from a pharmacist.

No surprise. But don’t expect these supposedly “strict guidelines” — which are pretty wide open to begin with — to stick. The court ruled that suicide and assisted suicide are fundamental rights. Since when have core liberties been restricted to particular classes of people?

If Austria follows the usual pattern, the new law will be challenged by euthanasia activists as unduly restrictive — as happened when Canada’s parliament tried to restrict the scope of euthanasia there in the wake of a court ruling. That suit will succeed, and the law will be further loosened. Eventually, say within five or ten years, Austria will have an equivalent right to death on demand as in Germany.

Make no mistake: That is the ultimate destination — if not goal — of the international euthanasia movement. And that is the scope of the debate we should be having rather than the nonsense about terminal illness, which is a tactical subterfuge deployed by activists to get people to accept the death-on-demand principal — as enunciated in the ’90s by Jack Kevorkian.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.