What is Assisted Suicide verses Euthanasia?
Assisted suicide (or physician-assisted suicide) is suicide with the aid of another person. This usually is the process where a terminally ill person is prescribed barbiturates that they will take themselves. With euthanasia, which is becoming much more prevalent, one person acts to bring about another person’s death in order to end some type of ongoing suffering.
Many will remember Dr. Jack Kevorkian (also known as “Dr. Death”) who brought assisted suicide to the public’s attention in the 1990s. Kevorkian assisted over 40 people in dying by suicide starting with Janet Adkins in 1990. In 1998, he videotaped himself giving a man a lethal injection with the patient’s consent. In this case he was found guilty of second-degree murder and served eight years of a 10 – 25-year-sentence.
What About Physician-assisted Suicide?
Physician-assisted suicide was first legalized in Oregon in 1994 through the “Oregon Death with Dignity Act.” It was delayed by lawsuits until 1997. The stated expectation at the time was that physician-assisted suicide would only be used in very limited situations. But as often happens, over the past 25 years assisted suicide and euthanasia have spread to other states and become more prevalent.
Euthanasia in Canada
Canada is a great example of how quickly society can go down a slippery slope. Canada legalized assisted death in 2016 for people with terminal illnesses and expanded it in 2021 to people with incurable, but not terminal, conditions. Now, according to a July 15, 2023 Reuters article, an expansion of the criteria for medically assisted death that comes into force in March 2024 will allow Canadians whose sole underlying condition is mental illness, to choose medically assisted death. In fact, Life News has reported that some Canadians dealing with mental issues are already being offered euthanasia while they are seeking help during a mental health crisis.
Criticized Today. Accepted Tomorrow.
The State of Colorado passed a euthanasia referendum that advocates said would only allow terminal patients to choose to die. But, as Life Issues reported, “just seven years later, Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani of Denver is euthanizing her patients who suffer from anorexia, an eating disorder. Doctor Patricia Westmoreland, a Denver psychiatrist, said she is “hugely concerned” with how this will affect not only her anorexia patients but those with bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses. She said those who starve their brains feel depressed and hopeless, hardly candidates for making that kind of decision. When Jessica – a patient – first met Gaudiani, she wanted to change the course of her life and live. A year later, she was dead.” A March 2022 Colorado Sun article reported on a paper written by Dr. Gaudiani and the overwhelming criticism from many. Unfortunately, often times, what is criticized today is accepted tomorrow.
There are many who feel that legalized euthanasia will result in people dealing with many types of physical or mental issues to feel pressured to choose death over putting their families in a position of having to take care of them.
Medical Futility Law
We’ve also seen the “right to die” turn into forced death. In the article, “Futile,” Human Life Alliance states in 1999, the state legislature enacted a “medical futility” law which requires that the patient’s family be given just 48 hours’ notice before the hospital committee meets to decide the patient’s fate. If the committee decides that continued treatment is “medically futile”, the family has 10 days to find another facility that will accept the patient. Failing that, treatment—including food and fluids—will be stopped. This controversial law has caused untold suffering for many patients and their families.
While Imposed Death, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is from 2015, it still has a considerable amount of information that will help inform a person of the history of euthanasia and assisted suicide and the negative ramifications to society.