Physician-Assisted Suicide Comes to New Jersey. Here’s Why It’s Badly Misguided.
In becoming the ninth jurisdiction to legalize
physician-assisted suicide, New Jersey has unleashed a Pandora’s box on its
residents—and the poor, weak, and disabled will suffer the most.
The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was signed
into law by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, after it
narrowly cleared both chambers of the state Congress.
As of Aug. 1, 2019, terminally ill patients with a prognosis
of six months or fewer will now be able to self-administer
lethal concoctions of drugs in order to take their own lives.
in a statement that this bill would “[provide] terminally ill
patients and their families with the humanity, dignity, and respect that they
so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face.”
This could not be further from the truth.
Physician-assisted suicide directly attacks human dignity; it
is anything but compassionate.
Death is neither a solution nor a treatment for human
suffering. Once we accept suicide as therapeutic, who qualifies for treatment
becomes a moving target.
When a country legalizes physician-assisted suicide, it is
only a matter of time before the government expands who will receive suicide
assistance instead of suicide prevention.
In Canada, a
hospital for sick children has unveiled a plan for how to terminate the lives
of terminally ill kids, with or without parental consent. In Europe, many
countries have even begun to practice euthanasia, i.e. the non-voluntary
killing of patients.
Even in countries still standing at the top of the slippery
slope, physician-assisted suicide ultimately undermines efforts to provide more
people with compassionate and ethical end-of-life care.
The introduction of physician-assisted suicide, according to
Heritage Foundation health care expert Bob Moffit, ultimately prevents the most
vulnerable populations from having access to quality, ethical end-of-life care.
As the demand for end-of-life care continues to increase,
physician-assisted suicide emerges as a cheap alternative to appropriate
palliative or hospice care.
In this scenario, it is the poor, the uneducated, and the
socially marginalized who are most likely to be pressured into taking their own
lives. These are the same populations who are the least likely to have someone
else advocate on their behalf for proper care.
Physician-assisted suicide does not promote human dignity.
Instead, it normalizes subpar and unethical care for those who are most
That is why disability groups like Not Dead Yet are at the forefront of
the movement pushing back against physician-assisted suicide. In fact, the
organization describes physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia as “deadly forms of discrimination against old,
ill, and disabled people.”
Proponents of physician-assisted suicide claim that
so-called safeguards—such as signed declarations of intent, waiting periods,
and multiple witnesses—will prevent misuse.
However, all of these safeguards are subject to abuse.
Besides, no safeguard can overcome the first premise of physician-assisted
suicide, that this practice assumes that some lives are not worth living.
Physician-assisted suicide efforts like this latest law out
of New Jersey are counterproductive. They prevent policymakers from focusing on
how to expand ethical end-of-life care at the expense of human lives.
That is why we must continue to oppose physician-assisted
suicide wherever it is found and take action to change hearts, minds, and laws
when it comes to end-of-life care.
This bill is not the end of the fight. It is only the