Humanize From Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism

Suicide by Physician

National flag on stethoscope conceptual series - Switzerland

‘Healthy’ American Sisters Die at Swiss Suicide Clinic

Always remember that the conjoined mantras, “Strict guidelines protect against abuse,” and, “Assisted suicide is only for the terminally ill,” are utter bunk. Once suicide is redefined as a human right, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the beast caged. Read More ›
honolulu skyline
Honolulu skyline with ocean front

Why the Hawaii Health Department Wants Looser Assisted-Suicide Rules

Please understand, dear readers, that when assisted-suicide advocates promise strict guidelines to protect against abuse, they don’t really mean it. The promise’s purpose is to get the law passed, not to be kept. Read More ›

Florida Hospital Sues to End Ill Nurse’s Life

“Futile care” — the forced removal by doctors and hospital bioethics committees of wanted life-extending treatment over patient and family objections — is, alas, still the law of Texas. And now a hospital in Florida has sued for the right to do the same thing to Genea Bristol, age 41. Read More ›
woman in sheet
Studio image of mentally ill woman in straitjacket

Euthanizing the Mentally Ill

Should psychiatrists and other doctors assist the suicides of mentally ill patients? Not that long ago, the answer to that question would have been unequivocally, “No” The job of a mental health professional is to save the lives of suicidal patients, not help them die. Read More ›
Wesley Smith Texas Senate

Wesley J. Smith Testimony Before the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee in Support of SB 917

The primary purpose of SB 917 is to prevent unilateral forced withdrawals—over the objection of patients and/or families—of wanted life-extending treatment based on doctors’ beliefs about the quality of the patient’s life. Read More ›
Netherlands healthcare concept. Medical stethoscope with country flag

Dutch Doctors Can Now Drug Dementia Patients Before Killing Them to Prevent Resistance

A few years ago, Dutch doctor Marinou Arends attended to her dementia patient in a nursing home. Arends wasn’t there to treat her, but to kill her via lethal injection. Read More ›

‘The Committee Heard From People Who Had Made Plans for Suicide’

Australia braces for more intentional killing, as Queensland appears set to join Victoria in embracing what we euphemistically term “assisted dying”: Queenslanders are set to find out this week whether [assisted suicide and/or lethal injection euthanasia] laws will be introduced by the Palaszczuk government. In March, a parliamentary health committee recommended Queensland legalise voluntary assisted dying for adults with advanced terminal medical conditions. … The committee, which began its inquiry in November 2018, gauged public opinion on the issue and found most Queenslanders were in favour of helping terminally ill people to die. The committee heard from people who had made plans for suicide in circumstances where they had a life-limiting illness or debilitating condition. It found a terminally-ill person took their own life every four days in Queensland. The committee recommended a person would need to be diagnosed by a medical practitioner as having an advanced and progressive terminal, chronic or neurodegenerative medical condition to be covered. Access should also be limited to people with “decision-making capacity” and the person would need to be assessed by two qualified medical practitioners. The committee recommended the state government review the scheme in three years to ensure legislation was working as expected. Let’s get this straight. The committee first “heard from people who had made plans for suicide”. Good! We should be hearing from those contemplating suicide. And we should be doing this for the purpose of strengthening suicide prevention protocols. Instead, the committee came away from the experience with precisely the opposite conclusion, effectively saying, “It sounds like you need easier ways to kill yourself. Let us help.” Normalizing and promoting suicide is always and everywhere a gross betrayal of a state’s obligation to its people. Only because we live in a medicalized era is this state-endorsed culling of vulnerable persons seen as acceptable. If we had only more traditional means of suicide on offer, most would immediately see that what is under consideration is plainly wrong. But because that state can get some physicians to do the dirty work to provide or even administer a fatal overdose by means of pills or a needle, we imagine ourselves as enlightened sophisticates. And as Ontario demonstrates, eventually states will compel physicians to do this dirty work. Then there’s the fact that the protections Queenslanders are told will accompany this are likely farcical. The requirements that one will have to be mentally competent or be truly terminal in order to be granted lawful suicide? Those protections will in short order be reframed as “barriers to access” and will have to be stripped out for the good of autonomy. Or so we’ll hear. Wesley J. Smith routinely documents this strategy of suicide activists: When pitching legalization, they solemnly promise that they have written, oh so “protective guidelines” into the legislation to prevent abuse. Then, once the law is safely in place, advocates grouse that the guidelines they touted are “obstacles” or “barriers” that unjustly prevent suffering people from accessing assisted suicide. Eventually, political agitation begins to amend the law to make things, shall we say, more flexible. … The emphasized items, now called “barriers,” were lauded as protections in the campaign to convince voters to legalize assisted suicide. I wrote about precisely this phenomenon as it played out in Victoria earlier this year. Eight months after Victoria’s “Voluntary Assisted Dying Act” came into force, alleged experts began their assault on the limited patient protections that allowed its passage in the first place. Victoria’s suicide law had been seen as “the world’s safest and most conservative” due to “safeguards” intended “to protect the rights of vulnerable patients”. But it only took eight months for bioethicists to begin attacking those safeguards as “unwarranted, unprecedented and ethically-problematic”. If suicide comes to Queensland, patient protections will be similarly attacked there. Once suicide is made both lawful and laudable, there is no logical limiting principle.

Photo by Barry Weatherall

Making Something Lawful Creates a Market for It

The Australian state of Victoria made it lawful to commit assisted suicide last year. The number of those who have killed themselves since “voluntary assisted dying” became legal is more than four times higher than the Victorian government had anticipated. Xavier Symons reports : The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board’s first Report of Operations, released on Tuesday, provides information on how Victoria’s euthanasia legislation is being enacted, including details of how many people have been issued with a ‘VAD permit’, as well as information on some of the barriers preventing people from accessing the scheme.  According to the report, permits to access the lethal medication were issued to 70 patients between June 19, when the scheme first started, and December 31. Overall 52 patients ended their lives. This is high, considering the Victorian government had suggested that initial numbers would be as low as 12 in the first year.  When you make something lawful, you create a market for it. When you make something lawful, you create the basis for demand that did not previously exist. And when you make something lawful and create a new market for it, you also send the message that it is “right”. We shouldn’t be creating a market for fatal drug overdoses. And we certainly shouldn’t be applying the truly dystopian phrase “voluntary dying” to acts of suicide—regardless of who ultimately administers the noose, so to speak. One of the things that J.D. Vance chronicles in his 2018 book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, is the disastrous impact of freely available and lawful opioids. The response to the opioid crisis has been a push to punish the pharmaceutical companies responsible for flooding the market with highly addictive and fatal drugs and to make opioids much more difficult to obtain unless there is clear and demonstrable basis for their limited use in pursuit of healing and recovery. This is a sensible response to a legitimate social crisis. Yet the same issue of death by overdose is treated differently in places that embrace suicide by physician—which always and everywhere requires a euphemistic public relations gloss like “voluntary dying” in order to become law. It’s a scandal that we act—through our own indifference to the moral content at the heart of the law—as if the mother in Appalachia is owed a greater measure of suicide prevention efforts than the mother in Victoria. Activists pushing suicide by physician—suicide by overdose—are attempting to create what is ultimately a meaningless distinction between “planned” and “unplanned” suicides by the sick and other self-killings in order to valorize the former while still loosely pretending to stigmatize the latter.

filling iv
Male medical worker regulate the intravenous drip system at the patient bed in the critical care unit

Full-Bore Death on Demand Arrives in the West

The 1973 dystopian film Soylent Green featured several shocking moments, including overpopulation riots and men calling women “the furniture” required for sex. But the most disturbing scene showed Edward G. Robinson entering a euthanasia clinic, choosing to be put down rather than live with his existential anguish. What was once fiction is becoming reality. Assisted suicide, unthinkable then, is popular now. Since the movie was released, many have come to view human existence as a relative, rather than absolute, good. The sanctity of life ethic has been replaced by the drive to eliminate suffering, even if this requires eliminating the sufferer. And the raw power of this logic has led directly to suicide clinics and a right to death on demand—since no one can judge what another person considers to be unbearable torment. Assisted suicide activists insist that euthanasia is only for the seriously ill, and offer vacuous promises of strict guidelines to protect the vulnerable. Such bromides have never made sense to me. If there is indeed a “right to die,” if the most important good is “choice” rather than “life,” how can the right to commit suicide remain limited to the seriously ill? After all, many people suffer more intensely and for a longer time than the sick. Once one accepts the moral propriety of euthanasia, the logic eventually leads to death on demand for anyone who desires to die. Still, even I never expected full-bore death on demand to arrive in the West for another decade. I was too optimistic. A recent ruling from Germany’s highest court has cast right-to-die incrementalism aside and conjured a fundamental right both to commit suicide and to receive assistance in doing it. Moreover, the decision has explicitly rejected limiting the right to people diagnosed with illnesses or disabilities. As a matter of protecting “the right of personality,” the court decreed that “self-determined death” is a virtually unlimited fundamental liberty that the government must guarantee to protect “autonomy.” In other words, the German people now have the right to kill themselves at any time and for any reason. From the decision (published English version, my emphasis):  The right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses, nor does it only apply in certain stages of life or illness. Rather, this right is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence. . . . The individual’s decision to end their own life, based on how they personally define quality of life and a meaningful existence, eludes any evaluation on the basis of general values, religious dogmas, societal norms for dealing with life and death, or consideration of objective rationality. It is thus not incumbent upon the individual to further explain or justify their decision; rather their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of self-determination. The court wasn’t done. The right to suicide also includes a right to assist suicide: The right to take one’s own life also encompasses the freedom to seek and, if offered, utilize assistance provided by third parties for this purpose. . . . Therefore, the constitutional guarantee of the right to suicide corresponds to equally far-reaching constitutional protection extended to the acts carried out by persons rendering suicide assistance. The court also opined that Germany’s drug laws might have to be changed to facilitate the absolute right to die that “the state must guarantee”: Sufficient space must remain in practice for the individual to exercise the right to depart this life and, based on their free will and with the support of third parties, to carry out this decision on their own terms. This not only requires legislative coherence in the design of the legal framework applicable to the medical profession and pharmacists but potentially also requires adjustments of the law on controlled substances. This is stunning and appalling: In Germany, autonomous people now have the absolute right to commit suicide and receive assistance in doing so for any reason or no identifiable reason at all. The court’s ruling is so encompassing that it seems to apply even to children capable of making autonomous decisions, since being underage is a “stage of existence.” While the court stated that minor restrictions such as waiting periods might pass legal muster—the government may also prohibit “particularly dangerous forms of suicide assistance” (whatever that means)—the German constitution now requires, literally, death on demand. That will not be the end of it, either. One radical court ruling leads to another. The right to commit suicide could soon become a right to be killed outright. After all, everyone isn’t physically or emotionally capable of committing suicide, and homicide can achieve death more swiftly and with less discomfort than a do-it-yourself demise. Since Germany’s absolute right to assist in suicide is open-ended and not limited to doctors, why not permit friends to kill friends? The ruling also opens the gates to social anarchy. How can the state now restrict the taking and selling of addicting drugs? Drugs may be harmful, but if an autonomous person chooses to spend their days high, how can the state gainsay that decision or inhibit the commercial providers who supply the fixes? How can the state restrict any surgical or chemical sex changes? And on what basis can the state prohibit people who identify as “transabled” (people who have body identity integrity disorder) from amputating their healthy limbs or severing their healthy spinal cords? If suicide is no longer a harm the state has a duty to prevent, how can the state thwart a person’s desire to destroy his bodily functions? Indeed, how can the state restrain any personal behavior or vice, so long as the desired autonomous act does not directly harm an unwilling other? I am reminded of Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne’s prophetic words more than twenty years ago. Reacting to his country’s strong public support for a father who murdered his disabled daughter as a supposed act of compassion, he wrote: “A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith Read More ›


Germany’s Highest Court Creates Right to ‘Self-Determined Death’

The logic of euthanasia/assisted suicide has always pointed towards a right to death-on-demand. Assisted-suicide activists deny it for reasons of expediency. But the logic is irrefutable. If there is a “right to die,” how can it be limited to restricting categories? Well, the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest judicial body, has gone there and without equivocation. In overturning a legal ban on “professional assisted suicide,” i.e., by doctors, the court ruled that there is virtually an unlimited right “to a self-determined death” — and to also receive help from others in achieving that end. From the AFP story (my emphasis): Judge Andreas Vosskuhle at the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe said the right to a self-determined death included “the freedom to take one’s life and seek help doing so”. The court also surprised observers by explicitly stating that the right to assisted suicide services should not be limited to the seriously or incurably ill. The freedom to choose one’s death “is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence”, the verdict read. This right to receive help dying wouldn’t be limited do doctor-assisted suicide, by the way. I write more on this at National Review, but suffice it to say that this is “death on demand” come true.