Stretching the Truth About Assisted Suicide

Original Article

As an anti-euthanasia activist since 1993, I am used to opponents stretching the truth. True to form, Barbara Coombs Lee, the head of Compassion and Choices (formerly, the Hemlock Society) claimed I advocate making assisted suicide “a federal crime” to “invalidate” state laws legalizing prescribed-death. (“Head off federal threat to medical aid in dying laws,” March 16).

No, I don’t. I support prohibiting federally controlled substances from being prescribed for assisted suicide, a different approach altogether that would not invalidate any state law. Indeed, such a policy would be consistent with the federal government’s primary role in regulating opioids — which were developed to ease pain or aid sleep, not cause death.

Coombs Lee opposed confirming Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court because he wrote a book opposing euthanasia, forgetting to inform readers that the high court ruled 9-0 in 1997 that assisted suicide isn’t a constitutional right. She conjures much darkness from Gorsuch writing 10 years ago that the assisted suicide debate “is not yet over — and may have only begun.” But by her very advocacy, doesn’t she demonstrate that Gorsuch was absolutely correct?

More urgently, Coombs-Lee claimed there have been no abuses. Yet, a new California regulation grants terminally ill, involuntarily confined, mentally ill patients the right to seek court release from their hospital to commit assisted suicide. If refused, the regulation requires the state to facilitate the death.

Think about this. California specifically requires government cooperation with the suicides of people adjudicated to be so mentally ill, they are confined involuntarily for treatment.

Wow. The so-called “death with dignity” movement is driving us out of our collective minds.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.