The So-Called Right To Die Unmasked

May 18, 2010 09:00 AM

An article was published recently that got my attention immediately. Like the writer, who is not a religious man, I have fallen into a category of people described by the mainstream media and proponents of death with dignity, abusive palliative care and other forms of euthanasia as a religious zealot.  So when I read the column, I was provoked to write about it.

Entitled “The Humanist Case against Euthanasia,” British editor Brendan O’Neill tells readers right off the bat that he is not a religious crank. In fact, he writes,

For me, one of the great mysteries of modern times is how the ‘right to die’ came to be seen as an important progressive cause.

It has now reached a level where if you tell someone that you have liberal instincts, humanist tendencies and you don’t follow any religious faith, they will automatically assume that you are in favour of legalising assisted suicide. There is almost an unspoken, nudge-nudge agreement amongst a certain section of society that this is a just and righteous campaign: you read the Guardian, you shop at Waitrose, you go to the National Theatre, you support assisted dying.

As a result, when I tell people that I am deeply uncomfortable with the campaign for the ‘right to die’, and I am not convinced that assisted dying should be legalised, they give me funny looks. They instantly assume that I must be one of ‘Them’ – one of those religious people, one of those strange individuals who thinks human life is so sacred that no one should ever be allowed to die until God wants them to.

But I’m not. I’m an atheist. And I consider myself a radical humanist. However, I am also very worried about the drive to legalize assisted dying. I think we need to start making the humanist case against this fashion for voluntary euthanasia.

O’Neill has some pretty interesting reasons for opposing euthanasia, and not all of them are totally in sync with the pro-life perspective, but he is an expert at using common sense to point out the reasons why no law or government-controlled agency is needed to help families cope with the reality that death is facing a loved one and the response should never be to kill him or her. Whether a loved one is terminally ill, in a coma or severely disabled, no entity should force death for any reason.

On that, I think all humane, logical folks can agree. And it’s about time that more of us said so.
In Connecticut, where a push is on right now for a legalized “right to die,” Cathy Ludlum is standing up for life and she ought to know all about it. Cathy, a severely disabled lady with a huge heart, “believes misconceptions about people with severe disabilities can lead medical workers to give them less aggressive lifesaving options. Doctors might think they would not want to live if they were in the patient's condition and assume the patient feels the same, she said. Or medical workers might see a disability as a fatal condition, even if it is not.”

Anyone who is familiar with the Terri Schiavo case knows full well that Ludlum knows exactly of what she is speaking. Murder seems to be the prescribed solution in far too many cases. And as one might expect, Ludlum is the real expert as she “has a neuromuscular condition called spinal muscular atrophy and has been in a wheelchair since she was a child.” 

Yet lawmakers always seem to have this idea that they know what’s best for everyone else. Look to the White House and you’ll immediately figure out what I mean!

The Connecticut newspaper, by the way, is not satisfied to just publish a story about the debates in the state right now. They have to run a poll to find out who thinks what about the question of whether or not a doctor should be permitted to “help” a patient who wants to die so that the patient can die on his own terms. They call that “assisted suicide” but I would call it murder. How about you?

Right now, that poll is running 75 percent against killing, but as we all know when it comes to polls, the only time anyone actually pays attention to them is when the poll serves the agenda of the person using it. Otherwise, it might as well be toilet paper.

The internet has also become a counseling room for people who really wish they could just die. William F. Melchert-Dinkel, who posed as a female nurse named Cami, is currently charged with two counts of assisted suicide. A registered practical nurse, Dinkel’s forum was a chat room and only God knows how many people Dinkel talked into committing suicide. According to investigators, he was “obsessed” with the idea and “he had most likely encouraged dozens of people to kill themselves.”

Right-to-die advocates cover a very broad spectrum of people, but they all seem to have a fetish for being in favor of getting others out of the way. In Montana, Victor Lieberman wrote a guest commentary for The Missoulian about the new HBO movie that elevates killer Jack Kevorkian to sainthood. Entitled “Aid in dying adds choice, diversity to process,” Lieberman opines:

The emergence of aid in dying isn’t unprecedented. It’s actually been around for ages, but in the closet. Historical changes in what constitute a “good death” are illuminated by Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust in her book This Republic Of Suffering: Death And The American Civil War (2008). An acceptable death, at that time, took place in a manner that testified to the state of an individual’s soul, its place in the afterlife and therefore the possibility of reunion with loved ones.

For many, a good death remains as it was then. For others, absent belief in an afterlife, death has involved a fierce fight until the bitter end. Yet lately, in the last 40 years, hospice care has moved the emphasis to a pain-free and peaceful death. In pursuit of death with dignity, the right to refuse life-prolonging treatment that prolongs unnecessary suffering has become well established.

We are witnessing yet another historic shift in the social definition of a good death, a shift toward diversity. Imagine us respecting a range of attitudes with which, and situations in which, people die. In Montana, the terminally ill may now define their own terms for freedom from unbearable physical or psychological suffering, and hopefully find their particular paths to sanity in their dying experiences.

In case you had a problem picking out all the current buzz words for hip, progressive thinking, think about these:


  • diversity = there is no good or evil
  • in the closet = killing others used be a no-no
  • good death = prescribed dying rather than dying because mortal life has ended
  • death with dignity = ending it all now rather than later
  • unnecessary suffering = someone else is tired of watching you die
  • freedom = even though you did not give yourself life, you have the right to end it anytime you see fit [or someone else does]
  • paths = personal feelings versus objective right and wrong

In other words, these new terms encompass just about anything that can be said to avoid admitting that there is a God and He does have laws. Some folks will really be surprised later on when life as we know it is over.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s high time for people to start thinking about the truth behind the slogans, not to mention the dead bodies behind the counterfeit mask.

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