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Lawmakers back suicide assistance

POSTED September 11, 2015 10:03 p.m.

“. . . We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness .  .  . “ — excerpt from the Declaration of Independence

The California Legislature is moving closer to putting that line to the ultimate test. Actually. They are opening Pandora’s Box. The Assembly Wednesday approved legislation to give the terminally ill the right to die. Or more precisely to have someone assist them as it is not against the law in California to take your own life. California Penal Code 401 makes it a felony to assist, encourage, or advise someone to take their life.

The measure, which now goes to the State Senate, requires the patient be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, that two doctors approve it, that the patient submit several written requests, and that there be two witnesses.

Of course a patient could find other ways to try and kill themselves without accessing life-ending drugs or involving other people in the act but that wouldn’t necessary be a sure thing. Death by life-ending drugs obviously is less messy and probably a lot less painful.

There are some who argue that having a right-to-die law in place for the terminally ill would encourage insurance companies and perhaps even medical professionals to somehow encourage such patients to kill themselves to save money and resources.

Perhaps the bigger concern should be the legal — not moral — justification for carving out a privileged niche of citizens who can commit suicide in such a manner.

It could be argued that those inalienable rights outlined in the Declaration of Independence and re-enforced in the Bill of Rights gives a person control over their life including the liberty to take it in a manner they see fit if that is what would make them happy. And as such, why shouldn’t someone who is not terminally ill have access to life-ending drugs or even have someone physically assist them if they so choose?

Once you’ve opened the door even by a crack for the terminally ill, it changes the game.

Yes, a case made that someone who is terminally ill is a bit different. They have been told they have an illness that can’t be cured and face the possibility of extensive pain.

That is where the slippery slope starts.

 Diabetes can lead to terminal illnesses. Shouldn’t a diabetic in the early stages then have access to life ending drugs? But they have their “whole life ahead of them” and are probably “only depressed.” Since we are all going to die and unless the government by execution or individuals by suicide set the time, we do not know when we will die.

Is physical pain or mental pain worse?

Can someone in their 90s with the inflictions of aging but relatively healthy engage someone to legally help them commit suicide because aging by the ultimate definition is a terminal illness?

Why can’t someone in their 20s that is healthy physically have someone assist them to commit suicide with life-ending drugs or by any other manner?

How can we square arguing that doing so is morally repugnant because simply because they are young and healthy when the government can find room in the constitution to accommodate the “terminally ill” as defined, of course, by the government?

Creating a special class for assisted suicide is basically elevating the rights of a select group of Americans above others. Yes, I get it. A terminal illness changes the game. But the question is why?

As a nation we are real sloppy on the issue of abortion. Regardless of where you stand and believe where life begins, the government gives fairly wide latitude for the ending of the life of a fetus. If individuals can have such freedom without the government making it a criminal act, then why shouldn’t the same hold true for those wanting assistance to commit suicide even if they are not terminally ill?

The argument that they are making a rash decision and may think differently about wanting to kill themselves in a few days, a week or a month. That can apply to practically anything we do including getting an abortion.

The point is not equating abortion to assisted suicide.

It is why is the state even entering the argument to begin with?

Oh, that’s right — California Penal Code 401.

So if someone can go to prison for helping someone who is not terminally ill who believes they should have the right to have someone assist them to commit suicide then how is that different than someone who follows government rules and helps a terminally ill person do the same thing?

The California Legislature that isn’t exactly a bastion of deep thinkers is making a moral judgment and giving it credence by passing a law.

That changes everything.


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