Forced Exit

Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty To DieWesley J. Smith

Bioethicist and Senior Discovery Institute Fellow Wesley J. Smith pierces the emotionalism, fear mongering, and euphemisms that are the standard fare of the assisted suicide movement to expose its attempt to strip the sick and disabled of their dignity. Far from a compassionate answer to suffering, assisted suicide is a new form of oppression.

Forced Exit offers chilling evidence of just how powerful and dangerous the death culture in America has become. Smith makes a compelling case against legalizing assisted suicide and takes a close look at the truly humane and compassionate alternatives, challenging us to maintain morality in medicine and protect the most vulnerable among us.

Smith recounts his entry into this debate after a close elderly friend committed suicide. This friend relied upon materials from the Hemlock Society, a pro-euthanasia advocacy organization encouraging people to see suicide as a joyous act of deliverance. Using books with titles such as “Let Me Die Before I Wake” or “Self-Deliverance with Certainty,” Smith’s friend found the tools and encouragement she needed to plan and carry out her death. The self-killer was instructed on proper technique and then, in an ineffectual disclaimer, warned that the information was only to be used for “self-deliverance from a terminal illness.” Smith’s friend had no such illness.

Explains theologian Richard John Neuhaus, “Thousands of ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable until it is finally established as the unexceptional.” It is precisely this arc that Smith urges our culture to stop as regards euthanasia. To that end, Smith offers sobering evidence that the right of the terminally ill to “die with dignity” will lead to involuntary euthanasia, or selective medical treatment, and perhaps even forced death apart from terminal illness.

Smith treats with compassion those who long to commit suicide. He recognizes that the euthanasia issue arose because people watched their loved ones writhe in pain after receiving inadequate medical care. He realizes that many support euthanasia because of a very reasonable fear of being victimized by our money-driven, dehumanizing, and increasingly impersonal health-care system. The unraveling of communities and the breakdown of families has also contributed to a system of malaise and despair within society, giving many fewer reasons to live or value life. While Smith does not deny the valid emotions driving the euthanasia movement, he recognizes that euthanasia is not the solution to these problems, but is rather a surrender to them.

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.