Death with Dignity? According to Whom?

October 28, 2014 09:00 AM

Over time, terms often seem to enter our conversation without explanation. When this happens we tend to think we understand what the term means and when and how we might use it when talking with others.

Case in point: Death with dignity. What does that mean when used by those who are politically motivated to drive conversation a certain way? Let’s examine it a bit.

The online free dictionary defines death with dignity as anything pertaining to the early end of a person’s life. Such acts are advocated by pro-assisted suicide groups like the Hemlock Society, which has since changed its name to Compassion and Choices.

Compassion and Choices defines death with dignity as decriminalized assisted suicide. In Oregon, for example, it is legal to take one’s own life. Recently, a new resident of that state, Brittany Maynard—a young woman suffering from a terminal brain cancer—announced that she will take her life on November 1, 2014. She has become the latest poster child for the movement to legally protect acts of assisted suicide in all 50 states while calling such acts death with dignity.

Compassion and Choices explains that—to its organization and its followers—death with dignity means requiring a prescribing physician to give a person the means to end his own life on his own terms. 

Advocates of assisted suicide have said that one of the long-term effects of Obama’s Affordable Care Act will be an increase in assisted suicide rates. According to, “Peg Sandeen, executive director of the . . . Death with Dignity [National] Center, speculated: ‘I think the ACA is going to change how we access healthcare and that change is going to come slowly. What I hope it means is that people have access to a wide span of options across the health spectrum.’”

In other words, death with dignity should be defined as healthcare and should be viewed as the proper way to experience “dignity” at the chosen end of one’s life—be it because the patient has chosen when to die or the healthcare provider has determined that it’s time for his patient to die. 

An excellent example of the latter can be seen in the case of young Jahi McMath. Many advocates of death with dignity suggest that, only when her life is ended, will she experience death with dignity. These are the folks who orchestrated the preparation and execution of a death certificate for this young girl who is—as her family tells the public repeatedly—alive and not dead at all. At this very moment, Jahi’s family is pursuing every means possible to have that death certificate revoked. The attorney for the family argues, “Newly-developed evidence, including MRI films and EEG tests, show that Jahi has brain activity and is not brain dead.”

Clearly death with dignity is a term extensively used by those who have absolutely no respect for human dignity. For those of us who are committed to defending human dignity, it is clear that today far too much end-of-life care has gone the way of aborting our young. Killing others and helping people kill themselves is considered by such advocates of killing as nothing more than respecting human dignity by facilitating premature death. 

If that is not a perverse attitude, then I have no clue what is!

What is death with dignity? The answer to the question is best answered by our understanding what it is not. Death with dignity can never be murder—and that is what assisted suicide truly is. No matter what you call this act, it is a great offense to human dignity, to God, and to the human race. Only when death occurs because God wills it does death equate with dignity. 

To learn more about these challenging questions, particularly as they relate to serious illness and end-of-life decision making, I encourage you to order your copy today of American Life League’s Loving Will

Protect your human dignity, and that of your loved ones. 

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