Assisted Suicide: Should Government Become the Final Arbiter?

Since the assisted suicide of Brittany Maynard in Oregon on November 1, there has been a lot of discussion in the country about the morality of doctors helping to end the lives of their terminally ill patients.

There’s a debate about dying with dignity versus having some sort of quality of life up to the very end. Most of these debates on the latter, seem to be based on a religious objection.

I’m not saying that anyone diagnosed with a terminal disease should automatically be able to terminate their life. There should be, like Oregon, a process to determine that the patient is indeed terminally ill and has no mental health issues (depression). You can read the statute here.

Why I started thinking about this subject is an opinion piece I read in the National Review. The piece discusses some legislation proposed in the House of Lords in Britain that would allow assisted suicide, but in the legislation would have a court make the determination.

Of course, the writer is clearly biased against assisted suicide but asks a valid question in my opinion. Should a court be the determiner whether a terminally ill patient should be able to terminate their own life? I’m sure a court would weigh all the evidence as to the illness, mental state, etc. but that’s not the point.

The writer of this piece says that this would have the government become a direct participant in suicide. Well, yes it would and I don’t believe we should be granting government any more power over our lives than is necessary. If Britain wants to legalize assisted suicide, they should probably craft legislation around that of Oregon.

Where the writer hurts is argument is this statement:

And here’s the irony: The UK opposes the death penalty. Trying to accommodate the Culture of Death is driving us out of our minds.

That’s a straw argument because one is a choice, the other is not. Allowing individuals to make that decision for themselves, with medical professionals involved at every step, is the right way to ensure that people who do not want to spend months of agony with a disease that cannot be treated or cured, not be a burden to their families during that period, have the right to make their own determination.

Having a judge, or a panel of judges, become the arbiter of a terminal patients choice to end their life is nothing more than a compromise in the dying with dignity debate and most likely a way to assure that even though assisted suicide would be legal, none would ever occur.

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