Opinion

The assisted suicide movement is proof that we are failing people

In almost all situations, suicide is seen as a bad thing. It is seen as tragic, something to be prevented at all costs. Yet the assisted suicide movement is turning that on its head, with suicide becoming something to be promoted and encouraged — provided that the person is mentally ill, disabled, or “suffering” in any way.

David Leyonhjelm, an Australian veterinarian, wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post Australia calling it “cruel” to keep people alive when they want to die. He comes to this conclusion based on his work as a veterinarian, where animals are routinely put to sleep, despite the fact that human beings are not animals.

“Denying assistance to those who are suffering and wish to end their own lives is extraordinarily cruel,” Leyonhjelm wrote. “It can result in a long and painful death. Too weak or incapacitated to end their lives themselves, they are condemned to suffer until nature takes its course. For some facing that prospect, the preferred approach is to die by their own hand while it is still possible.”

It’s interesting that Leyonhjelm avoids being honest about what he’s doing here: romanticizing suicide. It’s a common tactic in the assisted suicide movement; instead of openly calling it what it is, they prefer platitudes like “death with dignity” or “medical aid in dying.” It’s not often that people encourage suicide, yet that is what Leyonhjelm is doing.

He continued, saying, “Most people accept that painlessly ending the suffering of animals is an act of compassion. As a veterinarian I often had the decision to put an animal to sleep placed in my hands, because animals cannot give consent.” Of course, animals don’t have the intrinsic dignity that humans have, something that Leyonhjelm doesn’t acknowledge. Are they all the same in his mind? “Yet even when we give consent and beg for help, the law denies humans the same compassion,” he added.

Leyonhjelm has introduced a bill that would decriminalize assisted suicide in Australia, saying that a large majority of Australians support legalizing assisted suicide. But Leyonjhelm and his fellow assisted suicide advocates need to be intellectually honest about what they’re fighting for.

If a normal, healthy person openly says that they want to kill themselves, then it is a virtual guarantee that no one will shrug their shoulders and tell them that it’s their choice to decide when they die. Suicide is a horrific act that we recognize is often caused by depression — an actual medical condition — or by a person who feels that they have no other choice. Instead of agreeing with them that their life is meaningless or that it would be better to just end it all, we try to get them medical treatment, to help them see that their life has value. But not Leyonhjelm, apparently. For him, if someone wants to kill themselves, we should not only just let them do it, we should force a doctor — someone who took an oath to heal — to participate. We shouldn’t bother getting them mental help or giving them options that can make their life more bearable; we should just refer them to someone who can kill them, according to Leyonhjelm. He wants to turn doctors into hitmen, and to make suicide something that is no longer unthinkable, but something acceptable.

Leyonhjelm and the euthanasia lobby would surely be angry at this characterization; they just want assisted suicide for people who are severely disabled, or suffering, or terminally ill, or elderly. But consider what that line of thinking means: that the people who are the most vulnerable in society are expendable, whose lives are not worthy of saving when they are having suicidal thoughts. In reality, these are the people who need us the most, and promoting assisted suicide for them means that we are failing them.

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